Editor's Notebook: School Safety and Security

According to Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2006, a report produced by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in 2004, students ages 12 through18 were victims of about 1.4 million nonfatal crimes at school, including about 863,000 thefts and 583,000 violent crimes — 107,000 of which were serious violent crimes (rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault). In 2005, 10 percent of male students in grades nine through 12 reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property in the past year. From July 1, 2004, through June 30, 2005, there were 21 homicides and seven suicides of school-age youth (ages five through 18) at school, and the percentage of public schools experiencing one or more violent incidents increased between the 1999/2000, and 2003/04 school years, from 71 to 81 percent. Statistics like these, and incidents like Virginia Tech, should serve as a wake-up call to all of us.

During the last two years, School Planning & Management has hosted a number of focus groups on school safety and security. The attendees agreed that no matter how safe and secure they felt their institutions were, none were completely risk-free. Events like 9/11, Columbine, Virginia Tech, or Hurricane Katrina served as an impetus for many of them to start preparing for the unexpected — concerned with what has happened before, realizing that it could and probably will happen again, and knowing that next time it could be at their school. They also expressed the need for a larger venue where they could share experiences, compare notes with colleagues, and learn more about the options available to them. Listening to our readers, School Planning & Management has embarked on a new initiative to help fill that need — a workshop on School Safety and Security to be held Nov. 13 and 14 in Baltimore.

We have been able to assemble some of the best in the country to address the topics of school safety from planning, to funding, security technologies, and design. Program highlights will include a session by Chris Dorn, from Safe Havens International, who is an author and producer of numerous training DVD’s used by the FBI, TSA, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, law enforcement agencies, and school systems across the country. Chris’ session on emergency operations planning will address why most campus emergency operations plans fail when tested by a major crisis and, more importantly, how to develop viable plans under the U.S. Department of Education model. Also presenting will be Tod Schneider, a Eugene, OR police department crime prevention specialist who has consulted to the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, OJJDP, the Department of Homeland Security, the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, the Hamilton Fish Institute, and numerous school districts across the country. His session on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) for Schools/Safe, Healthy and Positive Environmental Design (SHAPED) will illustrate fundamental, critical principles of safe school design, addressing the full spectrum of concerns — from petty vandalism to school shootings.

Also on the agenda is a case study on Phelps Senior High School, in Washington D.C. Phelps is a Vocational Training School built in 1934 that is surrounded by the Langston Terrace community, the first federally-funded housing project, which was built in 1938. Both have fallen in significant disrepair. Phelps was closed in 2002, and in the intervening years has become a part of the 21st gang’s“turf.” As the District of Columbia Public School system, the designers, and contractors try to rebuild and restore the facility, issues like jobsite security and safe school environment have taken on a whole new meaning. Ed Schmidt with Fanning/Howey and owner-in-charge of the design team on the Phelps High School project will address the issues related to designing, building, and, eventually, teaching in the middle of what some have called a war zone.

School safety is an issue that cannot be ignored. We encourage your participation in this practical and informative program. I am sure that together we can make schools safer for students nationwide.

To find out more about the School Safety and Security Workshop or to download your registration form go to www.SchoolSecurityCentral.com.