When all school and education stakeholders show respect and concern for the well-being and success of one another, the result is accountability. And, with responsibility comes positive results. By tracking and responding to school safety and morale issues before they become more prominent, concerning behavior resolves. Often, stakeholders can celebrate successes instead of solely focusing on the challenges.
Accountability is not a given. It requires effort from all stakeholders — students, staff, administrators, families, and other outside agencies. When it fails to happen, all stakeholders suffer. But when it works, it’s to the benefit of all.
Accountability Gone Wrong
There are many examples of school safety gone wrong. Typically, when these incidents are analyzed, there is miscommunication or a failure to understand and act on responsibilities at the core.
The Uvalde school shooting is a well-known incident at the top of everyone’s minds. As an article in The Texas Tribune outlines, parents and community members are livid because of the safety response failed, leading to what is now the deadliest school shooting in Texas history. Community members want to hold stakeholders accountable, from the school district to local police, so this doesn’t happen again.
In Uvalde, the police chief was fired three months after the incident. That was only the start for many community members. They are organized and have a set goal: to garner the same accountability for the school board and superintendent. Their need for accountability stretches further to state politicians who can impose stricter rules on how guns are obtained.
This response is not new. Parents, students, and community members in Parkland, Florida, went through the same thing after Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. They were reportedly unhappy with:
- school administrators’ failure to act on warnings of weak security or the shooter’s need for targeted intervention,
- the sheriff’s deputies who took cover
- their supervisors, and
- the FBI, which knew the shooter.
After an incident, it is far too easy to see where accountability fails. That’s why a robust reporting and tracking system is vital to avoid heartbreaking situations like these. It’s time to learn from the calls for accountability after the fact, to put those systems and behaviors into place and create accountability in the present, avoiding tragedy.
Creating Accountability in Schools
Michele Gay and Alissa Parker, co-founders of Safe and Sound Schools, say that they want their hindsight to be others’ foresight. Both lost children in the Sandy Hook shooting and deeply understand the cost of accountability failures.
In a letter to the editor of EducationWeek, Gay and Parker note an essential aspect of ensuring safe schools. School safety is not the responsibility of one person, one team, or just the superintendents and administrators. It’s everyone’s responsibility — all stakeholders, all the time.
Empathy and security are not options stakeholders should choose between, they say, but something everyone should center on. School safety requires engaged people, places with physical safety, and practices and policies that support safe activities.
A Government Technology article shares more of the same: school safety is the responsibility of an entire community, and there is no one size fits all approach.
Schools and districts vary in their needs, threats and resources. Monitoring or tracking without interventions is ‘security theater.’ So, what can schools and districts do? Building relationships with students, offering counseling and mental health support in conjunction with outside agencies, and communicating proactively with the community and families are all practices that go beyond security theater.
In the UNESCO report Behind the numbers: Ending school violence and bullying, researchers point to systematic approaches to involving all stakeholders in the school community as a success factor in case studies where countries were able to reduce and maintain low levels of school violence. They also point to the availability of data and systematic monitoring of responses, implementation of evidence-based programs, and collaboration between the education sector and other partners.
A holistic, systematic approach, with much support for any stakeholder affected by school safety issues, is vital to creating conditions where accountability can thrive. UNESCO recommends that all countries improve the availability of accurate, reliable data around school violence and implement evidence-based initiatives based on what that data reveals. While individual schools and districts may not be able to compel the federal government to do this, tracking data and responding to it, with the inclusion of all stakeholders, is readily accomplished at a school or district level.
GroupLink’s platforms, including GroupLink for SafestSchools, GroupLink Workflow Process & Incident Tracking and GroupLink everything HelpDesk, will help your team accomplish this. Our programs increase student safety and operational efficiency, collaboration, and accountability, while significantly reducing liability and risk associated with safety issues.
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