Peeling back the onion: Strong collaborative models requiring time and persistence are the core of effective school security and emergency preparedness programs (insights from Dr. Stephen Bayne)

Posted by on October 9, 2023

The best school security and emergency preparedness is often less visible or even invisible. Research and decades of school safety experience point to the importance of relationships and collaboration within school communities.  Dr. Stephen Bayne, a veteran California school safety and emergency preparedness expert, graciously shares his insights based upon his years of experience in participating, coordinating, and sustaining multi-agency emergency preparedness colllaboration groups in California.

Dr. Ken Trump, President – National School Safety and Security Services

By Dr. Stephen Bayne

Peeling back the onion. A metaphor used by people to describe a process that leads to new discoveries. In terms of school safety and emergency planning, this metaphor can take on a whole new meaning as law enforcement, school officials, and communities wrestle with finding the right blend of approaches to make their community schools safe.

If we stay with the peeling the onion metaphor for a moment, we begin to realize there are variables and components that go into school safety and emergency planning. Each school and each community are unique. Even within the same school system, safety and planning needs may differ from one school to another school. The one-size fits all mentality is no longer a viable method to develop emergency policies and make critical planning decisions.

An onion has layers that surround the core, known as a bud. Going from the outside layers of the onion to the core, school safety and emergency planning can, and often, look similar based on the general needs of all schools. These outer layers may take the form of physical security, safety technology, written safety and emergency protocols, training, anonymous reporting solutions, community involvement, and other safety and security measures implemented by schools for their unique culture and environment. If these school safety and security principles make up the outer layers of the onion, then what is or what should be at the onion’s core? What pumps life and properly nourishes a successful school safety and emergency planning program. It is not the written plans and it certainly is not safety technology.

There are and will be differing expert opinions on what truly is at the center of a robust school safety and emergency planning program. I suggest to you the center, the onion’s core, of a successful school safety and emergency program is a strong collaborative model made up of several distinctive groups that address different aspects of a school district’s safety and emergency planning program. These are not the “sense of urgency” collaboratives that are quickly established after a national school tragedy. This school safety and emergency collaborative model that I am referring to is an investment of time and persistence over many years. A model that is created and sustained over a long period of time even when there is no sense of urgency.

I am proud in my school district, the Irvine Unified School District (CA), to have four (4) separate strong collaborative safety and emergency planning groups that have organically grown in synergy and membership over the years. It is a combination of those high level conversations and the boots on the ground discussions that have made this model a very successful school safety and emergency planning program. I am open to networking and having further dialogue with interested school safety and school emergency personnel on how to start up and/or maintain a strong collaborative model.

Stephen Bucheli Bayne, Ed.D., has 34 years experience in California public schools with 16 of those years as a K-12 school police officer and 18 years as a K-12 risk manager/emergency manager.  For more information and technical assistance support, he may be reached directly at

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