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By Cameron Fox, Safe and Sound Schools Teen Ambassador

Through the Safe and Sound Schools Youth Council (SSYC), students can get the resources to easily create a school safety council within their own communities.  I recently started my own chapter- the Summerville Youth Safety Council at my school, Summerville High in South Carolina.

In our first meeting, we brainstormed issues and areas of importance to improve our school’s safety.  Many people believe that implementing more physical safety features such as cameras, windows, and locks, are the only ways that schools can become safer.  While physical safety measures are extremely vital to a safe and secure school, our council asked ourselves questions like, ‘What other methods could impact the feeling of safety?  What could the student body do to promote change?’  We came up with 4 ways students can make schools safer.

Build relationships between students and school staff

I believe that creating a familiarity with the school’s staff can encourage students to report safety concerns.  Many students that I have spoken with are more comfortable speaking to a teacher rather than an administrative officer.

The council members and I came up with the idea of a Teacher-Student Breakfast held at the high school.  The event will allow students to really get to know their teachers. This is important because the bond between teachers and students has a big impact on the safety of a school.

Know the difference between ‘snitching’ and reporting

Many students fear retaliation from peers, and become discouraged when it comes to reporting a threat.  However, they don’t understand the greater risk of not saying something about suspicious activity. Speaking up can impact everyone in the school community.  Students that report can save lives.  This aspect of school safety is extremely powerful, and helps prevent potential threats.

Get to know the physical safety measures & protocols at school 

My chapter realized that students within our high school don’t recognize the physical safety devices employed on campus.  It is important to make them more aware about what these devices are and how they are used. I believe that educating students about this equipment is a simple way to empower students, and evoke a better feeling of safety.

Taking the 2019 State of School Safety Survey 

Safe and Sound Schools has created a survey that allows students, teachers, and parents to share their thoughts on school safety.  This is an easy, yet important, method to encourage individuals to speak about how safe they feel.  This survey will gather your feedback and point out the topics that are trending across the nation. Just make sure you complete the survey here by Thursday, April 4, 2019!

I hope this blog post encourages other students to take action and be proactive to make their schools safer.  Click here for the step-by-step process to start your own Safe and Sound Youth Council chapter.


Cameron Fox attends Summerville High School in South Carolina.  She is a teen ambassador for Safe and Sound Schools and the reigning Miss Green Wave Teen 2019.  As a titleholder within the Miss South Carolina Scholarship Organization, her advocacy platform is “Feeling Safe and Secure in Schools.”  Cameron is an active member of the local Dorchester Task Force for School Safety, and her goal to ensure a safe learning environment for youth.  She works to inspire students to utilize their voices and become leaders in their school communities.

 

In 2018, we conducted an in-depth look at perceptions that parents, educators, and students have on the state of school safety. We issued the results of that survey in the first-ever State of School Safety Report. We are so grateful to the nearly 3,000 people who participated in this research study. This national survey captured perceptions that school stakeholders have about school safety, including current frustrations, as well as opportunities for improving communication, taking a broader view of safety threats, and conducting outreach to more community members.

We heard from safety experts, advocates, government leaders, parents, educators, and students that this report helped broaden our understanding of school safety and provided a conversation tool for communities around the country.

For 2019, we are thrilled to once again embark on this important research, this time with support from students at faculty at Boston University College of Communication. They have broadened the research in some ways, and focused it in other ways. We aim to measure changes in perceptions and dive more deeply into specific areas.

We hope you will take a few minutes to complete the survey by Thursday, April 4. The survey can be found here: https://bostonu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6MdjpIDIdn2hlyZ.

Safe and Sound Schools will publish a report on the survey findings in the spring, and of course, we’ll share it with you here, first.

Please ask your friends, family, and school communities to take this survey as well. The more people who participate, the better, as we’ll have an even-more clear look at the state of school safety.

Thank you for being here for us… with us… doing what we can for our children today and tomorrow, in honor of those we lost in the past.

  • Students are dissatisfied with the state of school safety and see it very differently from educators and parents.
  • Our current state of readiness against safety threats is too narrow, with not enough input from the entire school community.
  • A difference in safety perceptions exists among schools with fewer than 500 students.

NEWTOWN, Conn.—May 7, 2018—Safe and Sound Schools (SASS), a nonprofit organization that delivers crisis-prevention, response and recovery programs for schools, today published its “State of School Safety Report 2018,” the results of its first-ever survey exploring perceptions of safety at schools among parents, students, educators, and the general public. The findings outline perceptions among stakeholders, and looks at the current state of threats, from threats received to future threats, as well as preparedness for those safety risks.

The first major finding of the survey is that a substantial communication gap exists between educators and other stakeholders, namely parents and students. Educators are more confident in their overall preparedness, safety and ability to handle a wide array of safety threats, perceived shortcomings, expertise and communications than other stakeholder groups. This confidence, however, translates into a knowledge gap for others in the school community.

“The State of School Safety survey points to the need for educators and administrators to focus on simple, honest communication to parents and students, and listen more to their concerns and feedback,” said Michele Gay, executive director and co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools. “Opening up avenues for communication will empower school communities to bring to light additional vulnerabilities and solutions, speed up implementation of safety initiatives and reduce anxiety associated with lack of knowledge.”

In this figure from the State of School Safety Report, we see educators report higher levels of feeling “extremely or very safe” with their level of preparedness for any safety incident, as compared to parents, students, and the general community.

Additional survey highlights include:

  • Students deserve a seat at the school-safety table. Only half of students surveyed feel safe when they are at school. Students also believe their school is in denial that it could be in danger, and more than half of students surveyed think there is a lack of awareness about school safety issues and that their school has a false sense of security that things happening around the country couldn’t happen in their school.
  • Threat assessment must be broadened beyond school-based shootings to include other common threats to school safety. These include bullying, weather, physical abuse, suicide, and racially- or minority-focused vandalism. All four respondent groups reported having seen more of these threats than other threats.
  • Schools need to involve a team of experts in planning. When asked who is responsible for school safety in their communities, parents, students, educators and general community members had different rankings, assigning different levels of accountability among the wide range of school safety stakeholders. By bringing together experts in mental health and wellness, school resource officers, public safety officials, students, parents and school-based teachers and staff, school communities can garner greater awareness for what is working—and what is not—in school safety.
  • A difference in safety perceptions exists among schools with fewer than 500 students. Educators at small schools—those with fewer than 500 students—report that students feel safe at school at a higher rate than their peers at larger schools. However, students at smaller schools are also less aware of their schools’ safety team and report constrained financial resources.

Michele Gay and Alissa Parker founded Safe and Sound Schools on May 3, 2013, after their respective daughters, Josephine Gay and Emilie Parker, were killed in the tragic Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conn. The State of School Safety Report marks the fifth anniversary of the organization’s founding, and highlights progress made and opportunities for improvement in school safety. The survey, conducted in early 2018, received 2,872 respondents across four main stakeholder groups: parents of students, students in middle or high school, educators (teachers and other professionals working in schools), and the public at large.

“We live in a climate of anxiety, fear and frustration when it comes to school safety, yet the people who matter most aren’t necessarily heard from,” said Alissa Parker, co-founder of SASS. “Our report has the power to be incredibly instructive for schools across the U.S., as we’ve identified opportunities for near-term improvements. Most important, it shows that we need to give teachers, students, educators and communities the space to bring their insight and ideas to the table in conversations about their school safety plans. By improving communication among a wider range of stakeholders, we can inherently improve our expertise and training.”

Safe and Sound Schools will continue its work to improve overall awareness and resources supporting crisis prevention, response and recovery for improved school safety. To read the full report, please visit the Safe and Sound Schools research page: www.safeandsoundschools.org/research.

About Safe and Sound Schools

Founded in 2013, Safe and Sound Schools works with school communities and mental health, law enforcement, and safety professionals to create and ensure the safest possible learning environment for all youth. The non-profit organization, started by parents who lost their children in the tragedy at Sandy Hook, delivers crisis-prevention, response, and recovery programs, tools, and resources, backed by national experts, to educate all members of the school community, from students and parents, to teachers and administrators, to law enforcement and local leaders. Winner of the 2015 SBANE New England Innovation Award for nonprofits, Safe and Sound Schools continues to answer the growing needs of school communities with custom programs, assessments, and training, reaching schools in every state in the country. For more information, visit www.safeandsoundschools.org.

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