Editor's Note (The View From Here)

You Can't Ignore It

This month's focus is on school safety and security — a topic that is always in the news and deserves as much coverage as we can provide. As parents, we are looking for a safe environment for our sons and daughters. As administrators, we are looking for ways to provide that type of environment. But, the job is not as easy as it should be and is surprisingly fraught with controversy. Case in point… I watched a news story about the joint committee at the Arizona state legislature approving funding ($12 million from the general fund for the 2014-15 school) for nearly 120 school resource officers on K-12 campuses across the state. Amazingly, responses to this news were, “Aren’t there more important things we should be spending the funds on?” and “Another hour of my work week wasted with the ineffective use of my tax dollars.”

Another example of contention is how we have dealt with cyberbullies. Some of the results of cyberbullying include teen suicides and lawsuits challenging a school’s response to peer harassment. One of the difficulties is finding a way to balance the punishment for this crime with the right to free speech. Last week, New York’s highest courts ruled that a 2010 Albany County law prohibiting cyberbullying is overly broad and violates the First Amendment right to free speech. The case centered on a high school student who created a Facebook page, where he anonymously posted vulgarities about classmates, including posts about sexual partners and other offensive content. The student had appealed the case after being convicted under the challenged cyberbullying law.

Creating a safe and secure environment is not an easy task, but employing the “ostrich method” — putting our heads in the sand and hoping it doesn’t happen at our school — is irresponsible. Crimes are happening in our schools and on our campuses. In 2011, in K-12 schools, there were 25 homicides and six suicides; 1,364,900 nonfatal victimizations at school including 615,600 thefts and 89,000 serious violent victimizations; seven percent of students in grades 9 through 12 reported being threatened or injured with a weapon, such as a gun, knife or club on school property; and 85 percent of public schools recorded that one or more crime incidents had taken place at school.

Yes… nothing is black or white. Yes… there are pros and cons to every situation and every response. No… we can’t ignore the facts. You may say that a student is more likely to be struck by lightning… until it happens at your school or to your child.

This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of School Planning & Management.

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