School Security and Safety. Misguided Vigilance

With the increased fear of school shootings we have seen an increase in school safety drills. There is a lot of debate about the need for and effectiveness of such drills . However, we do know that learning and development is being disrupted on an almost daily basis by them ….

Here is a recent statement from Dr. Khadijah Costly White who represents SOMA Justice and is leading a working group reviewing School Security and Safety.( Published with Dr.White’s permission)

Dear Members of the Board and Superintendent Taylor, I’m writing in regards to the recent proposed school security policy on the agenda for this evening, October 27, 2019. I very much appreciate the small changes you did make, signaling your willingness to include social workers, accommodate kids with special needs and trauma from drills, and making sure they aren’t left in hallways. But I am sincerely disappointed with the very significant changes you did NOT make in this policy. In particular, this new policy suggests you: plan to do MORE drills than required, involve police MORE often than necessary, Will give no limits on how long the drills will be, refuse to give parents reasonable notice regarding drills, will not replace will not replace physical reenactment drills with effective and time-saving tabletop drills, and fail to substantively engage social workers in these drills or developing policy in meaningful ways. To be very, very clear — even if these are not your intentions, the policy implies otherwise. We are asking for very clear language that prevents these possibilities from happening at the school level. Not just regulations (which Dr. Shea has refused to make transparent), but actual policy. On Item 1: If you don’t plan on doing more drills than required, then why change the language to “at least” instead of “no more than”? On Item 2: Obviously, police need to be involved in real emergencies — but this policy is about drills, not real emergencies. Police can practice after school hours or with staff. Given the fact that the highest cause of death for young black men in this country is by police officer, and the events of July 2016, I think you understand how even that forced interaction can be traumatizing. On Item 4: Advanced notice is NOT banned by state regulations — and the state actually encourages good communication around drills. Even in Parkland School District where an actual highly publicized school shooting has taken place, parents are informed about drills in advance, concurrently, and afterwards. It’s common sense that when you don’t want to scare people, you provide them with information. Moreover, there is no good reason why providing this information should be avoided except for lack of transparency. There is absolutely no evidence showing that unannounced drills make students more prepared for either a drill or a real emergency. This is a small change that can go a long way. On item 6: We have already learned firsthand that while a social worker might be in the room getting updated on security measures, their voices are NOT typically included in security measures. In 2018, Boardmember Adamson told me that a licensed social worker would have to sign off on any drill policy moved forward to make sure that it is developmentally appropriate — that, of course, is not built into this policy and is not being done at the district level. But we thought her idea a brilliant one and were hoping it would be included. Additionally, we feel it is dishonest to suggest that social workers who know our kids and our district are substantively engaged in developing and approving practices that are literally traumatizing our children when they are not. We are not arguing that this policy is out of compliance; 20 prison guards could be placed at each school if we were just aiming for compliance. Rather, we are arguing that this policy goes against research and evidence that exists about drills and the harm they cause. We ask, again, that you revise this policy so that it supports strong, progressive, and evidence-based security policy. We don’t need to continue this unproven and unnecessary harm to children in lockdown and security drills. We need the Board’s guidance, your input, and your contributions to this policy. You are parents, too. I understand you want to listen to law enforcement. But please, please listen to our kids. Listen to the experts involved in this proposal. Listen to the research. Listen to evidence. Please, take this seriously and revise. And if you won’t do these things, please let us know why. We very much appreciate this opportunity to engage with you on this matter.

Published by Jane Bleasdale PhD

An experienced educator Jane has taught in three different countries in both public and private schools. Jane is currently an assistant professor at the University of San Francisco in the School of Education but travels all over the country as an educational researcher and consultant. Jane earned her Ph.D from Fordham University in Educational Leadership and Policy , the focus of her research was equity and inclusion in high schools.

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