As school board members and as education leaders, our number one priority is to provide an environment which protects our children and our staff. It is as simple as this: Teaching and learning cannot take place in an environment that is not safe.
That’s why the New Jersey School Boards Association has revisited the topic of school security on numerous occasions (and will continue to do so). We live in uncertain times, and so it is incumbent upon school board members to be proactive regarding security.
All education leaders should be asking themselves a series of questions on a regular basis. Here are just a few of them:
- How safe are your buildings and your grounds?
- Have you completed a school security audit?
- Does your district have plans in place to deal with a school emergency?
- Has your staff been well-trained to handle a school security emergency?
- Have you spoken to your local police chief, have the police made frequent visits to your schools, and have you established a relationship with your local first responders?
- Are you familiar with the recommendations in the report of the NJSBA School Security Task Force?
- Are there changes that could be made to your buildings to make them safer?
- Have students been trained to deal with a school emergency?
- Are your schools promoting the social and emotional wellness of students?
No doubt you have considered these issues before. But I urge you to regularly reexamine what your district is doing to strengthen security – and what more it could do.
The New Jersey School Boards Association has resources to help. This issue of School Leader magazine has a special section on school security, and includes articles on the new options available to districts for security officers in schools (the legislation that created the new class of officer was championed by NSJBA); examples of what schools in New Jersey and around the country have done to make their schools safer; and an article on cybersecurity risks that schools face.
Our 2014 task force report, available on our website, contains recommendations for action. As I have traveled the state to attend meetings of the county school boards associations, I have frequently had the pleasure of having board members tell me that the report provided useful suggestions for action.
We also hold regular board member training programs that focus on security. The next program, the NJSBA School Security and Student Safety Conference, will be held on June 2. I urge you to attend; registration information is available through the “Upcoming Meetings” page of our website.
This won’t be the last time you hear me speak about school security. Just as school districts must be persistent in their efforts to improve student safety, NJSBA will continue to reexamine this issue and provide training and resources for districts.