The Challenges of School Safety and Security

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Campus Security

The recent stabbing and shooting incidents, including hazing and bullying activities, that occurred inside school premises in different parts of the country have put the spot on campus security. Likewise, the resurgence of illegal drugs has not spared schools. These alarming events have pushed schools to submit their security system under a deeper and thorough scrutiny to avoid criticisms from public and private stakeholders.

I had the chance to deliver talks on school security in some campuses, most of these with the primary, secondary and college departments. During the open fora, I found out that these departments share common security problems. The most prevalent incidents are student fights, hazing, vandalism, absenteeism and theft. I assumed that drug-related cases are also among the problems but some schools refuse to report or admit it. Hazing was also mentioned but this usually occur outside the campuses. The question remains. Is it really difficult to secure your school campus?

Schools are very much different from other public institutions in terms of control. Management over the campus environment is mainly placed on the shoulders of the school administrators. School administrators dictate the access policies to the campus.  They formulate and schedule classes and have the power to require all students to be present during school hours. The school administrators also dictate the level of supervision over the campuses as they have the authority to implement or establish strict rules of conduct and behavior. They can also implement policies such as bag inspections, locker searches  and the use of metal detectors, if necessary. The administrators can also implement control on vehicle access and in some cases, conduct searches on vehicles parked inside the campus area.  They are also empowered to discipline students or any member of the school community and even suspend, dismiss or expulse anyone from the school.

At a more practical level, school security is negatively affected when administrators are inconsistent in enforcing school rules and regulations. For example, when the bell rings for the first period in the morning, students and teachers are required to be inside the classroom for their lessons. It becomes easy for the school to determine the non-students or unauthorized persons.  If a student opts to be absent or performs any action in violation of existing school policy on conduct and behavior, the school must apply the prescribed penalty, with respect to the principle of justice, fairness and respect for the rights of all other students.

Challenging Responsibility

I can say that securing a school is easier than securing any other institution. But I am also aware of the many issues that our teachers and other members of the school community deal with. Students especially in the primary and secondary levels deal with their own problems such as depression. Some of these students lack social skills. Some are mischievous and commit violent acts.  It is a common observation that when children enter their teens, they become more hyperactive or more aggressive.  Some teachers are afraid of these students.  Administrators and teachers need to be patient and generous to understand such students. In additon to these problems, some schools lack budget to deal with such problems.

A Question of Priority

When security problems arise, the frequently-used excuse is that it is not in the school’s priority. It’s unfortunate that there are too many schools that do not place security in equal footing with other disciplines in its business operation.  Of course, problems in academics will always be number one priority as this is the one of the principal reasons why a school exists.

However, among all other school sectors clearly supporting the smooth flow of the teaching and learning process, security is still pushed at the bottom of priorities.  When schools are short of teachers and staff or the libraries are lacking of books or proper equipments, these are always prioritize instead of solving security or safety problems.

Ninety percent of security-related incidents inside campus are caused by the ten percent of the student population.

Securing is Not a Temporary Relief

Security should not be treated like a band-aid treatment.  It shouldn’t be taken as simple temporary solution that needs frequent reapplication. It is not something that should be applied to solve a particular problem only.   If such is the practice in your school, then, something is wrong. A school security plan must not be made as a separate measure.  It needs to be totally integrated into the daily routine of the school.

Safety and security is not the sole responsibility of the chief security and the members of the school security force, it should be everyone’s responsibility. Security involves the cooperation of campus supervisors, vice principals, deans, officials, teaching and non-teaching personnel and students. Even the toughest schools can be transformed into a safe and secured education facility given the proper orientation and training and development of the needed personal commitment.

My personal observation is that most schools already have all the mechanisms it needs to create a reasonably safe and secured campus environment. School safety and security problems are normally solved without trouble if the school rules and regulations are properly applied and executed. Schools must periodically submit itself to auditing to ensure quality. The focus, then, shifts to simply educating the students.

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First published in the Campus Security section of Volume 1 Issue No.6 of SecurityMatters Magazine – Print Edition