President Obama and representatives of the House Republican conference met earlier today where a spirited 90-minute exchange occurred after a year of bitter, intense political sniping between their two parties.
Although intense, the exchanges appeared to be sincere, genuine, and at least somewhat productive. At a minimum, it was generally more civil than the daily shots we see fired in soundbite bullets aired on cable and network news.
Our nation’s school safety experts, violence prevention academic researchers, security professionals and related specialists could take away a lesson from today’s political gathering. While individually we all are passionate about making our schools safer, it is far too common to see those holding one philosophical viewpoint on how to improve school safety firing shots at other school safety professionals emphasizing a different perspective.
As a school safety professional, national media commentator, and conference presenter, I do my best to stress the importance of having a balanced and comprehensive approach of prevention and preparedness in a school’s safety program. This is what I believe to not only be respectful of the different philosophical and programmatic approaches to school safety, but more importantly it is what works best in making schools safer.
Yet as recently as this week, I saw a press advisory from prevention researchers in which they slam school security measures as allegedly having been shown to be “inadequate or even dysfunctional.” Aside from questioning the accuracy of this claim, I also have to ask, “Is attacking one approach to school safety truly necessary to promote their skewed philosophical and professional biases for prevention programming?”
Unfortunately, as education, research, and program dollars get tighter, it is not uncommon to see agencies and individuals which should be working hand-in-hand actually undercut each other in the interest of competition for the almighty dollar. Some feel doing so is an act of necessity for survival. Others seem to just enjoy doing so to promote their own philosophical and/or political platforms.
I have always said that schools must have reasonable security measures in place in order to create a secure environment in which other prevention, intervention, and educational programs can be safely delivered. At the school level, this means the student walking down the back hallway of the school will not be able to benefit much from his scheduled meeting with the school psychologist if he is attacked and beaten on the way to the psychologist’s office.
School safety experts and researchers should not continue to advocate for “more prevention OR better security.” They should be arguing for “more prevention AND better security.” It is not an “either-or” issue. It is an issue of having “both,” which is also known as being a part of a comprehensive approach to school safety.
Today, President Obama and his Republican rivals at least came together in the same room and had a candid exchange. School safety professionals around the nation should take a page from this playbook and do the same. The safety of our school children and teachers depends upon it.