High-profile school security incidents this week included:
- A pipe bomb disabled at a Los Angeles school.
- A teen arrested for a mass schooting plot at a school.
- Texas schools on the Mexican border preparing for stray bullets from Mexican drug cartel wars.
Is this violence? Or is it a manifestation of bullying, harassment, and “incivil” behavior?
If you listen to the policy and funding emphasis of the U.S. Department of Education, you’d tend to hear little-to-nothing about the violence end of school safety. In fact, the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools recently announced the Department has redefined “school safety” from a focus on violence to one of “incivil behavior” and “‘climate.”
You need a magnifying glass and hearing amplifier to detect references to “school security” or “school police” or “school resource officer” or engaging the “juvenile justice system” in an education conference keynote speech by top ED officials over the past year. If you do see or hear these areas or emergency preparedness in an ED speech, they tend to be a footnote to the prioritized policy and funding push of the “bullying bandwagon” and “incivil behavior” movement.
Putting School Safety in Perspective
Are pipe bombs being planted on every school campus each day? Are school shooting plots being planned at every school each day? And are the bullets from foreign drug cartel shootouts striking schools around the nation each day?
The answer, of course, is no.
But likewise, there are also not students committing suicide because of high school or middle school bullying every day. There are also not school administrators ignoring student harassment and therefore violating their civil rights in every school each day. And there are also many schools where “civil” behavior is the norm, not the exception, each day.
Does this mean we should minimize the importance of our students who have taken their lives or harmed others because of bullying and/or mental health issues? Absolutely not. Likewise, we should not minimize the importance of providing a secure environment free of pipe bombs, shooting plots, and stray bullets from nearby community violence.
Should we therefore push violence to the back-burner over bullying? Should we push bulllying to the back-burner and only focus on violence? Again, the answer is no.
The correct answer is that our policies and funding, whether at the federal government or local school board level, should reflect a balanced and comprehensive approach to school safety. The goal should be prevention AND preparedness, not prevention OR preparedness.
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