With another school shooting in the news headlines, this time in Oregon, it's a good idea to address the issue of school safety and violence. While terrible rampages like Columbine or Newtown garner the most media attention, they are statistically rare compared to gang-related incidents and similar crimes. According to a recent report by CNN, gun violence in schools has been occurring about once every five weeks, and most of this is due to the unsafe nature of many elementary and secondary education institutions.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act has allowed for classification of certain schools as "persistently dangerous," but states are often reluctant to identify problem schools. Out of 50 states, 46 say they have no persistently dangerous schools at all. This includes the Chicago public school system, where crime and gun violence are a harsh and ever-present reality in certain districts. So in all probability, school safety nationwide is likely much worse than official reports convey.
While violence among students is an issue that must be addressed by citizens right down to the community and family level, there are at least pro-active measures that can be taken to prevent tragedy from striking. Here are some key ones:
- Control of building access, including closing doors to the outside during school hours and establishing a sensible system of IDs for employees, students and any visitors.
- An internal communications network between buildings via phones, intercoms or two-way portable radios.
- Adequate interior and exterior lighting.
- Adequate maintenance of the grounds to prevent hiding places for anyone who would seek to harm a child.
Steps like these make for a good start. School safety can seem like just another issue up for debate - until failure to follow its rules hits home in our own communities.