Editorial: It's back to school ... and safety
Students are heading back to school. Take a deep breath and it's a heart-warming moment — snapping of first-day photos, meeting new teachers, seeing friends again. Then exhale and fears creep in — being bullied on the bus, being approached by strangers, worrying about school violence and specifically school shootings.
No place is completely safe, but schools are the safest place overall for children to be when not at home with a caring, responsible adult.
National statistics support this statement. Consider a few findings from two recent, related reports:
• Crime at K-12 schools in the U.S., including violent crime, decreased from 1992 to 2013. That is according the National Institute of Justice's July 2017 report on school safety. Not surprising then, the number of students carrying weapons and and number of weapon-related injuries have decreased.
• The study also found that despite high-profile school shootings in the U.S., homicides at schools are rare. Today's students are less likely to be threatened or injured with a weapon (such as a gun, knife or club) at school than 10 years ago.
• In that same 20-year space, the percentage of youth homicides occurring at school was less than 3 percent of the total number of youth homicides.
• During the 2015-16 school year, about 93 percent of public schools reported that they provided training on safety procedures. That is according to the National Center for Education Statistics' 20th annual publication produced jointly with the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education and the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the U.S. Department of Justice.
• That study found the use of school-based security personnel not only affects the level of reported school crime, it may also affect the school environment. For example, the presence of security staff may be associated with schools' reporting of crime incidents, and with staff and students' perceptions of the school environment.
• That study also confirms that recognizing warning signs of potential safety or discipline problems for students is one way teachers and schools lessen the impact of these problems on students who may be struggling with them and therefore reduce the risk to the student body.
Beyond the statistics, local actions are increasing the odds of keeping students safe on the way to school, in school and during after-school activities. For example, local schools have spent tens of thousands of dollars in the past two summers to improve security and dedicated school resource officers are the norm today.
Rest assured that your community is taking steps to ensure that students have a safe environment in which to do their best as they head back to school.