School Safety Becomes Hot-Button Political Issue Again
by Jim Kouri, CPP
In the aftermath of the senseless murder of young children attending an Amish school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, school safety is once again being discussed within the Beltway. As details of the murder of the school children were revealed to Americans across the country, the topic of school safety has come to the forefront of political discourse and news media coverage.
This week, President Bush commenced his Summit on School Safety comprised of several sincere and well meaning individuals. So far it appears that the one thing they all agree on is that part of the remedy to this problem begins at home where parents must condition their children to become good citizens free of hate and bullying and interested in learning and following the rules.
According to a survey of police officials who serve as School Resource Officers:
*Over 78% of SROs have taken a weapon away from a child on school property.
* 35% of SROs have reported an increase in school bus violence.
*Over 41% of SROs have reported improper use of cell phones by students.
* 86% of school safety personnel underreport school crimes. There was a scandal a few years ago regarding school principals neglecting to report school crime to the office of the New York City School Chancellor.
* Over 70% of SROs say that funding for school safety is either decreasing or or remains stagnate.
* Almost ALL SROs consider their schools to be 'soft targets' for terrorist attacks.
* The majority of them believe they are ill prepared to respond to such an attack.
*Over 60% believe the schools do not have enough or regular safety drills. Nor do they meet on any type of regular basis with other first responders to review, revise and update their emergency plans.
* More than half of the schools' teachers, administrators and support staff have no ongoing training for school security and/or emergency preparedness. The same applies to school bus drivers.
* More than half of our schools use no safety measures when it comes to opening mail. Bombs? Anthrax? Written threats?
* Half of our schools have not been assessed for security by professionals in the past five years. And a huge percentage of security has not been able to attend training because of the costs.
*Close to 100% of school safety officers admit to no communication with parents on school safety and security. And in this day and age of nuclear warfare threats, I'd guess a whole lot of talking and planning had better be going on.
Meanwhile, FOX News reported on October 10 that the federal goverenment is cutting $347 MILLION in school safety grants saying the programs are not effective.
Bullying among children encompasses a variety of harmful behaviors that are repeated over time, according to behavioral science experts. It involves a real or perceived imbalance of power, with the more powerful child or group attacking those who are less powerful. It can take three forms: physical, verbal, and psychological.
Bullying, a form of violence among children, is common on school playgrounds, in neighborhoods, and in homes throughout the United States and around the world. Often occurring out of the presence of adults or in front of adults who fail to intercede, bullying has long been considered an inevitable and, in some ways, uncontrollable part of growing up.
School bullying has come under intense public and media scrutiny recently amid reports that it may have been a contributing factor in shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, in 1999 and Santana High School in Santee, CA, in early 2001 and in other acts of juvenile violence including suicide. Bullying can affect the social environment of a school, creating a climate of fear among students, inhibiting their ability to learn, and leading to other antisocial behavior.
Nevertheless, through research and evaluation, successful programs to recognize,
prevent, and effectively intervene in bullying behavior have been developed and replicated in schools across the country. These schools send the message that bullying behavior is not tolerated and, as a result, have improved safety and created a more inclusive learning environment.
A recently published report by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development on the US contribution to the World Health Organization's Health Behavior in School-Aged Children survey found that 17 percent of the respondents had been bullied "sometimes" or "weekly;" 19 percent had bullied others sometimes or weekly, and 6 percent had both bullied others and been bullied.
The researchers estimated that 1.6 million children in grades 6 through 10 in the United States are bullied at least once a week, and 1.7 million children bully others as frequently. The same study found that bullying has long-term and short-term psychological effects on both those who bully and those who are bullied. Victims experience loneliness and difficulty in making social and emotional adjustments.
The impact of bullying often extends into the victim's adulthood, as it correlates with depression and other mental health problems. In responding to bullying, schools can conduct surveys to determine the nature and prevalence of bullying, increase supervision of students during breaks, and conduct schoolwide assemblies to discuss the issue.
In the classroom, teachers should introduce and enforce classroom rules against bullying
and hold regular classroom meetings with students to discuss bullying. School staff
should intervene with bullies, victims, and their parents to ensure that the bullying is stopped.
Sources: National Criminal Justice Research Center, Nels Ericson and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, American Federation of Police and Concerned Citizens, National Association of Chiefs of Police, National Criminal Justice Association. Also special thanks to Cherie Price for her valuable assistance with this article.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.