Public school superintendents must proactively strengthen school safety and boost their communications about safe schools if they want to convince the public, government policymakers, and the media that high-quality public education can continue to succeed.
The “Stand Up for Public Education” Campaign is a multi-year campaign spearheaded by The American Association of School Administrators, the nation’s professional association for school superintendents. The campaign’s goals are to increase awareness of good news about public education, empower school leaders to influence the public conversation about public education, and dispel misinformation the erodes support for public schools.
School safety, not just academics, must be a part of the conversation
While high-level academic proficiency tends to be the focal point of attacks upon public schools, school safety is an issue that significantly impacts parental and community perceptions of public schools. Smart superintendents, school boards, and principals recognize that proactively strengthening school safety and getting out front on safety with their school community are both the right things to do and good school-community relations tools.
We consistently find that each school district has many positive things in place that contribute to school safety. We also find that each school district has areas in which they can improve upon existing strengths. But we also find that far too many school leaders are not proactively talking about school safety, security, and emergency preparedness.
School safety as part of the culture: “Education first, safety always”
Many fear that if they publicly bring up the subject of school safety they’ll “open a can of worms,” as one superintendent told me. But it is the failure to communicate about school safety that actually increases public anxiety, misinformation, and misconceptions about safety in public schools.
If superintendents and school boards want the public to “Stand Up for Public Education,” they need to first stand up themselves for school safety. Be proactive, not reactive, on assessing security, practicing drills, training staff, and working with community partners. Be proactive on communicating with the school-community, media, and internal audiences about the positive safety measures in place and their efforts to get even better.
I recently saw the slogan, “Education First, Safety Always,” throughout a school district where we were working on an emergency preparedness consultation. Safety is a part of that district’s culture. School safety is also a strong marketing tool in today’s world of school choice!
Is school safety part of the culture in your school community?
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