The New Look of School Safety

By Craig Colgan

What's In:
Handheld communications and data storage gadgetry. Community antiviolence summits. Biometric recognition. Increased training and certification for school resource officers. "Shelter in place." Arts-based prevention intervention. Conflict-resolution skills development. School crisis planning. "Online social cruelty." Truancy focus. Antibullying laws. Risk management analysis.

What's Out: Videotape recording surveillance systems. Zero-tolerance policies. Referring all troubled students to family court. "Old-fashioned" suspensions.

These lists show how rapidly the school safety field has evolved over the past decade. Theories deemed cutting edge five years ago have been replaced -- sometimes two or three times -- by new programs and approaches designed to combat fighting, bullying, and behavioral issues that arise in schools every day.

For administrators and board members, keeping up with these rapid changes in the field of school safety remains a constant challenge -- one that is complicated by budget cuts that curtail investments in the latest technology, training, and staff.

But some news shows that these school safety efforts are working. Violent crime against students in schools fell 50 percent between 1992 and 2002, according to "Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2004," a joint report from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The report, released in November 2004, indicates that young people ages 5 to 19 were at least 70 times more likely to be murdered away from school than at school.

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