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Safe Schools: Four Web Sites Help Administrators Address a Complex Issue

Share What can be done to prevent violence and make schools safe? Which ideas are right for your school or district? Which are most effective? This week, Education World recognizes America's Safe Schools Week (October 17-23) with a comprehensive examination of four valuable Web sites that address the complex job of creating safe schools.

School safety: A perusal of library books on the topic turned up friendly prose about the importance of not splashing water on the floor in the bathroom and waiting for the crossing guard's signal to venture across the street. If only the issue were so simple and could be dealt with so easily.

Today, the issue of school safety is charged with emotion. Violence and the fear of its occurrence have affected virtually every school in the United States. Though responses to the perceived escalation of violence in schools have varied, schools have invariably responded. Houston's school district has its own police force. Many school districts have installed monitored security systems that require visitors to be buzzed in. Others are instituting unannounced random locker searches and anonymous phone tip lines. At Colorado's Jefferson County high schools, which includes Columbine High School, students, faculty and staff are required to wear photo identification badges at all times.

What can be done to prevent violence and make schools safe? Which ideas are right for your school or district? Which are most effective? An extensive search of the Web yielded four sites that, though they may not have all the answers, best address the complex job of creating safe schools:

The Safety Zone
If you're seeking models of school safety, the Safety Zone is the place to search. The Web site of the National Resource Center for Safe Schools, the Safety Zone includes a searchable database of "promising and effective practices." A search by keyword, title of model, or program type provides program summaries, contact information, and information about whether the program has demonstrated effectiveness. Another highlight of the site is its daily updates of news stories related to school safety. The Safety Zone also includes recommended readings (available in PDF files), statistics, a calendar of conferences around the nation, and links to organizations that provide program funding.

Safe & Drug-Free Schools
Perhaps the most useful offering of this Department of Education Web site is its Publications section, where educators can either download PDF files or access html versions of six publications related to school safety: Protecting Students from Harassment and Hate Crime; Early Warning, Timely Response; Preventing Youth Hate Crime; Creating Safe and Drug-Free Schools; Conflict Resolution Education; and School Uniform Manual. Each publication includes step-by-step guidance. For example, Protecting Students from Harassment and Hate Crime outlines laws governing hate crimes, how to determine whether a criminal act may be motivated by discrimination, and what steps to take if a hate crime occurs. In addition to those publications, the site keeps the public informed on the government's latest efforts to keep schools safe and provides statistics on school safety. Information on grants for safe-schools programs, including downloadable application packages, can be found here as well.

NEA Safe Schools
In Healing the Hurt: School Communities Rebuild, the National Education Association looks at schools that have faced violence and tragedy in the past year, how they are coping, and what they have done to restore a feeling of security in their schools. The site also offers a PDF file of the NEA's Safe Schools Manual, which includes plans for school emergencies, forms for reporting school crimes, and educational strategies for preventing violence, among other things. The NEA also promotes adoption of the No-Taunting Pledge, also known as "I Will," which promotes tolerance and was written in memory of the students killed at Columbine.

National School Safety Center
Among the most popular resources on this site is a checklist for characteristics of violent youth. The list of 20 red-flag characteristics -- behaviors that could indicate a student's potential for harming himself or herself or others -- is derived from tracking school-associated violent deaths in the United States since July 1992. Also found here is a how-to for America's Safe Schools Week (Oct. 17-23) that includes an extensive list of strategies for creating safe schools. The site also features information about the center's services, training programs and products, such as the video "School Crisis: Under Control." While most of its products come with a price tag, the site does offer some freebies, such as the downloadable "Working Together to Create Safe Schools."

Article by Colleen Newquist
Education World®
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Updated 4/8/04