The shooting at Uvalade School has rekindled concerns among schoolchildren about school violence and has once again brought conversations about school safety and security to the forefront of media coverage and legal agenda. According to the school shooting database of the Federal Center for Homeland Defense and Security, the situation of active shooters in schools is rare. Higher education must take action and take the lead in addressing this increase in school safety concerns and related psychological and emotional impact on students and teachers.
As colleges and universities prepare future educators, concerns about safety protocols and school safety measures need to be borne in mind by school stakeholders across the country. These safety practices include the need for a system-wide approach to full-scale knowledge of prevention and response and training, team-based planning and implementation. This work begins before an educator even sets foot in a school building, and it is absolutely essential that training programs at the higher education level prepare future educators for knowledge, self-awareness and skills related to K-12 school safety and security.
The University of Montana’s College of Education – where I teach Counselor Education – has training programs for teachers, administrators and school counselors that do just that.
In collaboration with the National Native Children’s Trauma Center (NNCTC), located at the College of Education, we are also in the early planning stages of creating and implementing a Trauma Certificate across its departments and centers, to fill the Certificate Conference to give current students and community members the opportunity. For additional professional development in necessary and variant options. Even while waiting for the results of the college certificate feasibility analysis, the instructors are already bringing up topics related to their classroom.
In ethics and policy classes, for example, there are multiple conversations about students’ school safety and school shootings. In the K-12 Leadership course, students are given the responsibility of school resource officer as well as understanding the importance of the role of school counselor in school safety. In the benefit course, students consider physical safety because they work by creating safety issues. In the counseling section, all students are required to take a course entitled “Risk and Resilience” that addresses trauma, crisis and grief in school, community and clinical settings. This course covers valuable resources for augmentation and de-escalation cycles, crisis response / team and standard response protocols, and emergency operations planning, e.g. Friends i love you And Crisis Prevention Institute.
In addition to the NNCTC, the college supports the Montana Safe Schools Center (MSSC), whose mission is entirely dedicated to school safety, both physically and mentally. The MSSC, which I lead, provides active shooter training, threat assessment, suicide assessment, site assessment and much more to schools, community members and interested students. As school safety continues to be a priority, there are opportunities for MSSCs to train educators within the College of Education. Even with what is being done at the University of Montana, more is needed.
In recent times Higher Ed inside And the College Pulse Student Voice survey, conducted with Kaplan’s help, asked post-secondary students about their perceptions of safety in their educational environment. Of the 2,004 respondents, 94 were heads of education. Interestingly, these future teachers were less likely to be concerned about the possibility of shooting on campus than the full sample.
However, I have noticed increasing nervousness in direct response to active shooter tragedies like Uvalde. As a counselor educator, I see school counselors-in-training who are experiencing weather-related concerns and fears in their field placement settings, especially for marginalized groups (BIPOC, LGTBIQ +) who are less recognized and supported by their schools and communities. Through the Montana Safe Schools Center, I see more and more schools requesting training on threat and site assessment as well as active shooter situations. It is an important task for teachers not only to maintain physical safety in their classrooms but also to be prepared to deal with the concerns (as well as their own) that many of their students have about this problem.
In order to determine how our future teachers can best prepare for school safety, we need to consider how K-12 students feel safe in their school. One source of this information is Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), Is given bi-annually to secondary students nationally, which surveys a variety of health, safety and risk-taking behaviors. In Montana, for example, over the past decade, reports of students carrying weapons to school have decreased while complaints of student insecurity have increased.
While physical safety continues to be a consideration and priority for all school stakeholders, more energy and resources need to be expended for mental safety and well-being in school settings. In addition to site assessment, threat assessment, emergency operations planning, crisis response team and preventive practice, school leader and educator training programs Of course Consider the well-being of staff and students on the school climate grand courtyard.
As I have seen districts and states cut funding and mandates for school counselors, school psychologists and other mental health professionals, I have deep concerns about how those decisions negatively affect school safety, real and perceived. School counselors specifically work with all students, staff and families to influence the school climate and the safety and well-being system that allows students to enter their education. By reducing the number of school counselors, students have less access to these specially trained mental health professionals, reducing achievement and safety in one fell swoop.
However, when people feel safe, when people realize control over a situation, when people have the resources needed to make informed decisions, we see a reduction in anxiety and fear, a perceived lack of security, and a reduction in threats. Violence is where K-12 schools and post-secondary training programs need to start.
The training program must address perceptions as unsafe settings in schools by focusing on staff and student well-being, a positive school climate and school-wide prevention practices. By dealing with these perceptions in a systematic way, people will feel safe in school and their perceptions will be closer to the reality that matches this ability. The perceived lack of security increases anxiety and fear, while the increased perception of security will reduce anxiety and fear.
When students feel safe, when they feel their environment is safe, they are nervous more able to learn and retain new information more easily. This phenomenon also applies to their educators; When teachers feel safe, they are able to teach and support their students more easily for learning. Whether or not it relates to school violence, its core element is not real safety. Rather, it is the perception of safety in the school environment that must be addressed and prioritized.
More Coverage of Student Voice Safety and Security Surveys: Students feel more secure on college campuses, but not equally, and wish students safety: Visible safety, brighter walkways, more crime prevention.