This past week was a particularly trying week with the loss of life of 17 students at Stoneman Douglas High School. With this tragedy now comes renewed discussions on guns, shootings, the Second Amendment, and school safety. For just a moment, I want to examine the latter while skipping over the others, so we can discuss the truth about whether or not our schools are safe. You see when these types of events happen, human nature immediately sees the worst. What is the truth about the safety of your children in a private Christian school?
The truth is that school shootings are not on the rise. Contrary to what has been published, we have not had 300 school shootings in the last five years. That would mean we would have had 5 shootings each month for the past five years. One source driving the hysteria, Everytown Research Group, has listed every shooting since 2013 and delving into their research, you will find that many of the shootings listed are suicides and many others are shots fired with no one injured. Some of those shots fired are just accidents with no intent to harm anyone.
In the US, there are approximately 133,000 elementary and secondary schools representing over 51 million students, which means that 0.0000005 percent of students have been murdered at a school. Another study says that students have a 1 in 2,700,000 risk of being shot and killed, which is far less than the risk of being struck by lightning. Likewise, one last study was put out by CAPE, Council for American Private Education, and gives a student’s perspective on violence at public compared to private schools.
With an understanding that schools are much safer than we often tend to think or even feel, what can schools do to continue to protect their students and faculty?
But before I discuss the proactive strategies schools can implement, let me digress into one warning. Do not turn your campus into a prison. Because of the fear of the potential for harm, there is a danger of making your school atmosphere so sterile that it loses what many families love about Christian schools….a friendly environment that fosters relationships.
With that said, here are some steps one can take to improve safety on a campus.
- Work in conjunction with your local police and safety department to plan and practice lock down drills on your campus. Summer is a great time to invite your local department to practice evacuation or other drills on your campus.
- Give your local resource officer a space on campus that encourages him/her to spend time at your school.
- Train the school staff to handle all emergencies. This should be a part of the total professional development of all staff. Do you have a plan for this sort of training?
- Secure all entrances on your campus and install cameras that can be used by the front desk during the school day. Spotting a suspicious person before something happens allows personnel to stop a potentially dangerous individual from harming others.
- Provide materials to make rooms safe, i.e. barricade in place.
- Make sure you have adequate emergency communication tools for all staff.
- Communicate and train your parents and students as their understanding of campus procedures allow them to support your daily efforts to keep campus safe.
Again, these steps can help to limit the danger of a potential attack. Being prepared is the best possible strategy for prevention. In the end, school shootings are rare and your students are very safe. But if one of these strategies can save one life, it’s worth implementing today.
Scott Meadows is in his fourth year as Head of School at The King’s Academy in Sunnyvale, CA. Prior to TKA he spent 9 years in leadership at Christian Unified Schools in San Diego, has been Principal of Grace Christian Academy and Head of School at Campbell County Christian Academy, both in Tennessee, and founded Aletheia Christian Academy in Pensacola, Florida. Additionally, he served as the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) Southern California District One representative from 2011 to the present.
Scott holds a B.S. in Education from Pensacola Christian College, a Masters in Education from Lincoln Memorial University, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D investigating the effects of technology on student cognition.