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leadership and sustainability

Challenging the Status Quo

Kelly Moore
March 21, 2024

Let me preface this by saying I know I will get some push-back on what I am about to say. My position is, “Try to convince me that I am wrong.” Before you get upset, I want to acknowledge there are many dedicated schools and safety experts who are fantastic at what they do. This article is not directed at them but those who expect someone else to lead their schools and then complain when they do and how they do it.

Recently, I reviewed a few articles on school safety, each presenting political solutions to safety challenges. They all talk about the urgent need for a fundamental change in how our schools approach safety. Both also demonstrated to me why there needs to be widespread school safety certification for all school staff according to their roles within the school structure. Here is a summary of those articles and a description of my position on the current state of school safety leadership and the sustainability of school safety within our society.

The first article was written by a person who claims to be a school safety expert who has been making schools safe for the past few decades. The article was centered on using lobbyists to pressure politicians to spend millions of taxpayers' money to purchase specific products school superintendents and school boards may not want or cannot sustain.

The second article is centered on proposed legislation that bans the use of “fake” guns and gunfire during active shooter drills. They used a couple of different examples to prove their point when presenting the bill. One example was that we don’t fill the hallways with smoke during a fire drill. The other example was an educator who got locked out of her classroom and was unsure if it was a drill or an actual event.

I have been very vocal about removing politics from school safety because we have very few politicians who know what they are discussing, especially regarding school safety. That said, I also understand that most current school safety programs are driven almost entirely by some legislative mandate. As you can see, every time there is an incident, politicians push down a new mandate. This is because the schools are not taking the initiative to secure our schools and provide a safe environment for our students and staff. There are many reasons for this, but none of them are stated in either of these articles. This rests almost entirely on the lack of leadership in our schools, not the politicians and lobbyists. Did I just say that? Yes, I did. Politicians and lobbyists are just being politicians and lobbyists; that's what they do. No one is going to change that.

The top complaints, struggles, and excuses we get are no time, money, or expertise in school safety. Yet, in the first article, the author says that the politicians are giving schools money to buy something safety-related, and our schools say they don’t want it. In the second article, both the politicians and the educator are saying we shouldn’t do realistic drills because we don’t do them in any other drills, or it causes trauma because the educator didn’t know what was going on and felt like a sitting duck. The bottom line here is that our schools aren’t doing enough to prepare our students and staff and are all over the place regarding what they want and don’t want to do. In most cases, this doesn’t apply to all schools; their actions are incongruent with their actions.  

If our leadership were sufficiently engaged in the school safety process, none of what the lobbyists and politicians were doing would upset them. They would have a clear pathway to school safety where they allotted sufficient time, budget, resources, training, and policies to ensure their schools were as safe as possible. Regarding the author's comment in the first article about the unsustainability of the programs and mandates imposed by politicians, it's essential to recognize that both leadership and safety require sustainability. That just doesn’t happen. Many safety programs rely on a single person to sustain them, and once that person moves on, the program falls apart. This is one of the reasons why our schools are so far away from where they should be regarding creating and sustaining a safety culture. School safety cannot be delegated away and placed on the shoulders of a single person or team that is understaffed, under-resourced, and has to fight for every minute of time to train their staff so that everyone is on the same page regarding school safety.

Are we going to change this overnight? No, absolutely not. However, we are coming up to the 25th anniversary of the Columbine tragedy. If our school leadership had started to do what every outside organization and public service agency is doing to protect our schools, can you imagine where we would be today? From my perspective, this starts with training our staff in school safety while training to be educators as part of their certification process. Then, as they matriculate through their careers, they have to get additional training and certifications that correspond with their new roles and responsibilities. The failure to keep our schools safe falls directly onto the shoulders of our leadership. Convince me I am wrong!

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