“Good Riddance 2010” was a common theme among people I talked with the past few weeks. So what does that mean for 2011?
Good Riddance 2010; A New Mindset for 2011?
Education budget cuts, family financial hardships, and individual stressors brought anxiety to so many educators, safety professionals, friends, and acquaintances this past year. Few people I know found 2010 to be a good year.
Many of us are looking for this New Year Day to usher in 2011 and an accompanying psychological shift out of 2010. One small business owner told me she was going to paint the interior of her store just to start off the new year with a different mental picture to motivate her out of her 2010 gloomy mindset.
Two years ago, “hope and change” were the buzz words around President Obama’s election campaign. Many people saw “change” from 2008 to 2010, but not a lot of “hope.” In 2010, a majority of people voted in a different type of change with a nationwide shift in the political landscape, described by President Obama as a “shellacking” for his party.
The psychological shift from 2010 to 2011 is O.K. for a first step. But will a new a mindset for 2011 be enough?
The “Shellacking” of School Safety
The field of school safety, security, and emergency preparedness has taken a “shellacking” in recent years, as well. Federal and state funding cuts for school safety have hit schools hard. Local budget cuts, along with pressures to improve test scores, have further shifted the focus and resources of local educators from proactive to reactive school safety efforts in many school-communities.
The federal government has intensified the situation with the Obama Administration’s skewed school safety policy and funding to radical extremes by over-emphasizing bullying and civil rights (and more narrowly, gay rights) while neglecting other aspects of school safety, security, and emergency preparedness. The U.S. Department of Education’s leadership has proudly announced it will no longer focus on school safety from the perspective of violence, but instead will focus on bullying, school climate, and civility.
The result, based on my 25-plus years in the school safety field, is an overall climate eerily similar to that which existed pre-Columbine: One of heightened apathy, burnout, and skewed focus in the education community and in skewed federal school safety policy and funding.
2011 Opportunities for School Safety
The new political wave which changed the Congressional landscape for 2011 may hopefully bring in greater attention, balance, and oversight of federal school safety policy and funding. Congress needs to take on greater scrutiny over what has been a runaway train in the U.S. Department of Education’s overreach with bullying, civil rights investigations of bullying complaints against local districts, and overall skewed school safety funding proposals.
Similar opportunities exist at state legislature levels. Many new faces will be on the legislative floors in state houses across the nation in 2011. Hopefully with new legislators will come individuals who have a passion and understanding of the importance school safety plays with the academic achievement and “reform” strategies so many elected officials claim as their focus.
Perhaps the greatest opportunities, especially for short-term change, exist at the local school district level. The Florida school board meeting shooting several weeks ago woke up dormant board members around the nation and brought them an “in your face” reminder that school security concerns go beyond “bullying” and “civility” and continue to present real-life challenges.
Leadership, Not Rhetoric, Needed on School Safety
School boards and superintendents continue to have the power to make school safety a real, meaningful priority. Their priority emphasis must be reflected in their budgets as much, if not more so, than in their rhetoric.
2011 closes the door to a rather miserable 2010. The real question is whether those in leadership positions will open up the opportunities 2011 brings, or if a year from now we will be having the same discussion about another dismal year and continued “shellacking” of school safety.
The opportunities are here. Is the leadership?
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