School Safety Requires a Mindset, Not Mechanical, Change

Posted by on January 8, 2010

A school shooting or other high-profile violence incident occurs in a school-community.  Within hours, parents and others call for more surveillance cameras, metal detectors, and other physical security equipment.

Parents understandably want a “guarantee” that threats to school safety will not happen a second time at their school.  Most educators realize, however, they cannot honestly provide such a guarantee.

Yet it is far too common to see school boards, superintendents, and other leaders throw up new security equipment to enhance the perception of security in a school following a crisis.  Although this may appease anxious parents and provide good pictures for local news stories in the short-term, it also risks creating a false sense of security within a school-community in the long run.

School security equipment can play an integral role in a comprehensive school safety plan when it is used properly.  It must be the proper equipment, serve a defined purpose, be properly used, and be serviced and upgraded over time.

But any security technology is a supplement to, and not a substitute for, a more comprehensive school safety program.  Most security professionals agree that security equipment is only as strong as the weakest human link behind the equipment.

The mechanical side of school security is a lot easier to change than the human side.  For example, think of how many times after a school shooting we have heard, “We never thought it could happen here?,” even though “it” has happened in dozens of other schools across the nation. 

No piece of security equipment can change mindsets of entrenched denial and apathy in a school-community.  No equipment can change mindsets more focused on maintaining a positive image of their school than on acknowledging serious disciplinary and violence incidents which occur there.  And no security equipment can change the mindset of school staff who believe greeting and/or reporting a stranger in a school hallway is “someone else’s job.”

Mindset changes require a lot of work and a focus on long-term sustainability.  School safety must become ingrained in a school’s culture and nutured by its leaders, staff, students, parents, and school-community.

What have you done to create a mindset of safety in your school?

Ken Trump

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