Schools remain statistically the safest places for children, safer even than their homes and neighborhoods by a wide margin. Current efforts to make our schools even safer by hiring additional security personnel, installing more hardware, constructing barriers, and integrating security technology will undoubtedly prove to be effective deterrents to violent incidents in schools.
But the human factor should not be underestimated in the ongoing campaign to better secure the learning environment.
The “Silence Hurts” and “See Something Say Something” programs have proven to be very effective in identifying threats in schools before they escalate into actual violent incidents. In numerous instances in the four large urban public school districts where I worked as a public information officer and communications director for over a decade, it was students and teachers acting on their own to proactively report concerns who effectively stopped shootings and other violence from happening.
In one incident in Atlanta, a teacher noticed a first-grade student acting in an unusual manner, and she was able to determine that his behavior was somehow centered on his lunch box. By acting on instinct knowing intuitively that something was wrong, she discovered a large caliber revolver in the student’s lunch box that he had ostensibly brought from home to show off to his classmates. In proactively acting on intuition honed over many years of experience as a professional educator, she prevented a potential disaster.
Numerous other incidents involved individual students who witnessed their classmates engaged in so-called “show and tell” encounters in classrooms and corridors involving various weapons and other contraband, or they simply saw behavior they perceived as potentially threatening or unusual. In these cases, students remembered the Silence Hurts and See Something Say Something lessons they were taught and reported what they saw to school officials who took immediate action to counter and eliminate the threats.
These programs that are reinforced regularly with students throughout the school year have proven their value over the years in protecting the learning environment by enlisting the support of the entire student body along with the faculty and staff in schools in the effort to safeguard schools and campuses.
Millions are currently being spent to protect our public schools throughout Florida. Single points of entry, surveillance cameras with live feed capacities and safe spaces within classrooms along with security professionals, will undoubtedly add to the safety and security of our schools. But in the end, the prevention measures that cost the least may prove in the long run to be the most effectiveby simply inviting everyone to become an active participant in protecting schools and providing them with the knowledge and tools to do so safely and anonymously.