As the school's primary "safety officer," each building principal is responsible for creating a sense of security by implementing policies and procedures ensuring that students, teachers, and parents feel safe.
In light of recent tragedies, this role can seem daunting to many administrators. Understandably, the prevalent safety concern for most parents, teachers, students, and staff is the fear of a school shooting. As there have been several shootings in recent years, communities look to their education administrators for vision and leadership.
A poll from 2018 shows that nearly one-third of parents fear for their children's safety at school. This figure has risen from roughly one in 10 parents in 2013. Only 27% of parents said they were "very confident" or "extremely confident" in their school's ability to deter a shooter.
Parents want to know how their child's school is prepared in the event of trauma or danger, and strong administrators understand this. It is the principal's responsibility to ensure that teachers and staff have taken all necessary precautions and have a plan that has been routinely drilled by both students and teachers.
Success in both gaining the confidence of all stakeholders and being as prepared as possible can be achieved with strong and consistent communication. For example, some teachers are equipped with a two-way radio, giving them the ability to communicate with the principal and other security personnel at all times. Other principals invite students and teachers to give feedback after performing drills and then follow up by making changes to routines and procedures. Sometimes, getting parents involved can lead to the best results. One school initiative asked parents of children to perform routine safety checks in and around the school.
Other Safety Concerns
Administrators have other safety concerns for their teachers, staff and students. Though physical safety is often seen as the top priority, they should prioritize mental and emotional safety too. In every school, students are often dealing with difficult issues, both at home and at school. Issues not addressed in a timely manner can lead to more serious problems and increasingly violent behavior. For that reason, it's important for principals to ensure their schools provide an environment where students feel secure and connected with teachers and staff. Author and school administrator Matt Levinson believes, "Every child in a school should have at least one adult with whom he or she feels a connection, or the ability to reach out to in a time of need." It is the principal's job to make sure the school nurtures those healthy connections so children feel secure and valued.
Students also need to feel safe making mistakes and learning from those mistakes at school. Administrators are in a unique position to create a nurturing culture. As a leader in the building, a principal can set the tone for how students are encouraged, taken care of, and developed.
The principal is a key player in the safety and security of a school. Principals set the expectations and oversee the procedures and processes that keep their schools secure. Having a plan for dealing with dangerous situations will instill confidence in parents, students, and teachers that the school administration has their best interests in mind.
Learn more about the TAMIU online M.S. in Educational Administration program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.