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Home » Classroom Health and Safety » How the 21st Century Safe School Is Protecting Our Children

Schools are increasingly targets of violence, and despite many well-intentioned efforts, schools largely remain unsafe and ill-prepared.

Our schools should be safe havens, but, according to the National Institute of Justice, most schools will experience at least one violent incident per year, and the rate of students reporting violent victimization is on the rise.

Although everyone wants safe schools, experts warn that the problem originates with a false understanding of school security, poor training and the absence of security industry best practices. By not following best practice guidelines for safety programs, schools leave themselves vulnerable to ineffective theories and security products that are untested, unproven and unlabeled.

The 21st Century Safe School is a forward-thinking comprehensive approach addressing school safety from the mental, emotional, physical and social perspective. Safety is much more than violent threats — unsafe learning environments can have lifelong impacts. A recent study by UC Davis concluded that student safety has a direct correlation to extreme truancy, which commonly leads to poor grades and increased dropout rates.

Worse than useless

“Unfortunately, there are some crazy theories being taught to our schools,” confirms school security expert Michael A. Yorio, president of SSI Guardian, a leading security consulting and solutions provider and subsidiary of industry leader School Specialty Inc. “And they place teachers and students in harm’s way.”

Some of those theories are bizarre. “Therefore, it is important that school officials understand and implement security industry best practices that have been proven effective,” Yorio says. “It is unrealistic to expect small children to physically take on an armed intruder, and that is just one small example of what is being peddled to our schools. There is a plethora of liability cases stemming from these measures.”

Part of the problem, Yorio notes, is “Too many schools have a mindset that they can train a small number of staff who can train the rest of employees. This is really no different than having a security professional attend a physics talk and expect them to effectively teach physics. The outcome will probably not be favorable.”

Best practices

“The real problem,” says Yorio, “is a lack of understanding of best practice guidelines for school safety. Because of the lack of best practice guidelines, many ‛bad actors’ have made their way into our schools, offering flawed training or products that don’t meet life safety code requirements. For example, there are many aftermarket classroom door devices that do not meet fire code. Unfortunately, schools have purchased such devices, only to be forced to remove them by the fire marshal, squandering valuable financial resources.

SSI Guardian offers a simple, easy-to-follow checklist for schools to evaluate school security training programs and products.

Yorio knows these guidelines well because his company adheres to them. “SSI Guardian is the only program in America of our type that has an accredited Continuing Education Unit (CEU). This professional development credential is issued by North Carolina State University.

“So, you have ultimate third-party validation of our program, and because of the CEU, our training is eligible for professional development funding. This is important because many schools do not include training as part of their security budget and teachers need to earn CEUs for their license renewal. Additionally, we are the only program that merges mental health and security best practices.”

Yorio’s advice to schools is simple: Follow these best practice guidelines when choosing partners to set up school safety training or purchase products and do your own research. For parents, Yorio also advises heightened awareness and education. “Ask questions,” he says, “and use common sense,” he adds, pointing to the children fighting an armed attacker example. “We are always happy to speak with parents.”

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