Bullying is one of the most prevalent and widely discussed topics pertaining to school safety and security. Incidents of bullying can affect the school environment, the community, and most importantly the psychological and developmental state of youth. By working together and educating one another, the most effective prevention efforts can be discovered and implemented.
Increasing attention has been given to school violence and the prevention measures utilized by schools. Research has shown that violence prevention efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, community members, and students can positively impact the school environment/climate. Prevention efforts should aim to reduce the risks and perceptions of violence on the campus, while creating a safe and supportive learning environment. As attention and concern surrounding school violence increases the need to create positive school environments free of violence is evident.
Mental health plays a substantial role in the safety and overall climate of a school. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1 in 5 adolescents has a diagnosable mental health disorder and even more show signs of depression. Educators also struggle with mental health, with recent surveys suggesting half or more describe themselves as under high levels of stress and in a “not good” mental health condition.These issues can disrupt the educational environment and lead to negative outcomes for students.
The health risks associated with tobacco and illicit drug use are well researched and documented. Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease and mortality in the United States and has shown to be a path to illicit substances such as marijuana and cocaine. School administrators, teachers, resource officers, and school staff play an important role in the health and safety of youth. If students can be educated on the dangers of tobacco and drug use earlier in life, it saves not only our students but strengthens our communities.
Over the past decade, technology has altered the way youth communicate and interact with their peers. With over 90% of teenagers engaging in online use, the internet serves as a dominant medium of information gathering and sharing. As forms of internet communication evolve, it is the responsibility of youth, parents, and educators to understand the benefits and, when not used appropriately, the downfalls of these technologies.
The unfortunate reality is that school and junior college districts in Texas have the potential to be affected by any number of adverse events that can occur with little warning. Therefore, educational institutions must be self-reliant until help arrives and prepare to continue to participate in the emergency process after help arrives. Self-reliance can be achieved through the development of a comprehensive emergency management program that is mapped to the four phases of emergency management and includes a Multi-Hazard Emergency Operation Plan, regular training, drilling, and exercising, coordination with state and local partners, ongoing safety and security assessments, and the establishment of a district Safety and Security Committee.
School-Based Law Enforcement
The increased presence of school law enforcement during the 1990s has been attributed to the public’s perception that juvenile crime was increasing. The federal government has passed legislation and given millions of dollars in grant money to fund school-based law enforcement as a response. School-based law enforcement officers face challenges that are unique to serving in the school setting. The role these officers play has changed over time is not always clear. Research is beginning to uncover some of these issues and develop the best ways to utilize police to increase safety and security in schools.
Youth are making an impact across the nation by getting involved in policy change and by developing relationships with adults who value their feedback on important topics. Through a youth-led, adult assisted model, youth become the decision makers, while adults act in a supportive role, providing assistance when needed. Involving youth in leadership roles builds sustainability because young people who lead today are building the skills to continue leading tomorrow. Youth are valuable partners because they reflect genuine concern for their generation and project a powerful voice in advocating for community change.