Successful safety programs are comprehensive. Let’s examine a few areas and their benefits.
SEL plays a major role in the development of a child. Research shows SEL decreases disruptive behaviors and leads to greater academic achievement. SEL skills can be taken for granted by adults; they are second nature to us; however, students must be taught and practice these skills daily. Schools should make SEL development a routine part of school life, embedded across the curriculum. For example, students can increase their self-awareness, one of core areas of social and emotional competency, with self-monitoring checklists. Teachers with clear behavior expectations can empower students by allowing them to spend 1-2 minutes at the beginning of every period evaluating their own behavior. Teachers can intervene to provide feedback, praise, and/or the appropriate reward when necessary.
Schools and teachers with well-defined rules and expectations allow their students to work towards behavioral goals. Students can be held accountable through a classroom or school-wide behavior management plan with specific consequences for behaviors. Setting behavior parameters will allow teachers to craft memorable ways to teach lessons and also focus on “teachable moments” –unexpected opportunities during the school day to teach a concept or skills. Modeling the appropriate behavior and engaging role play activities are great ways to promote and reinforce positive behaviors.
Effective visitor management strengthens security by helping schools know who is or has been on campus at any given time. Well-planned ingress procedures funnel visitors to specific locations on campus, like the front office or security gate to check in. During check in, schools with a visitor management system (VMS) are able to screen visitors against public databases and watch-lists, keeping unwanted guests from entering campus and facilities safe and secure.
Organized schools with emergency management plans are better equipped to handle crises and keep those on their campus safe. All threats and hazards to campus safety must be considered like, inclement weather, natural disaster, and an active shooter. Once a threat is determined schools are tasked with disseminating information in order to increase the chance of safety and survival for students and staff. How will staff, visitors, and school first responders be notified? Once notified, where do school personnel go? As with student behavior, schools must define staff and student expectations and practice drills to ensure life-saving steps are being followed.
All of these topics deserve, and will receive, a more in-depth look in the coming weeks. All stakeholders must be given a voice, from community members to parents, teachers to administrators, and, most importantly, our students. Campus safety is an ongoing process. An open dialogue, facilitated by school leaders, will promote safer and more secure schools.
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