Searching for security
How do you know if a school is safe? Pretty paint jobs won't tell you! Let these six steps help you research the most fundamental issue for every school.
Get the facts
The following states and districts publish school-safety data:
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (school profiles include incident reports)
New Jersey Department of Education (school profiles include suspensions and expulsions)
New York City Department of Education ("Citywide Standards of Discipline and Intervention Measures")
New York State Education Department (New York State Report Cards, which include student suspensions)
By Carol Lloyd
“We’re thrilled,” declared my friend when I called to find out what school they’d chosen for their 5-year-old daughter. “There’s this beautiful garden, and the teachers seem brilliant. There are science and art projects everywhere you look.”
My friend was one of those übermoms — she’d toured a bazillion private and public schools. She thought carefully about what would be right for her little learning sponge.
From dream to nightmare
But within a few weeks of school starting, she left me a message: “We’ve been in kindergarten hell!” Her daughter loved the new school and was learning like gangbusters, but something wasn’t working. “We’re switching schools."
What could justify a parent summarily yanking her child out of a school she loves?
How unsafe schools affect student learning
In a word: safety. For most parents, school security is the place where the rubber meets the rule book. If your child isn’t safe from violence, bullying, sexual harassment, and fear — even if everything else is perfect — brilliant teachers and gorgeous gardens just can’t balance it out. After all, studies suggest that when children feel threatened, both their academic performance and emotional health suffer. Stress hormones impair kids’ neurological development, and they are literally unable to learn in the same way.
The problem with safety statistics
But school safety (or a lack thereof) isn’t as visible as a new paint job or a science display, as my friend discovered. It took just a single child with persistently violent behavior — and an administration that didn’t know how to handle him — for her child's dream school to turn into a nightmare.
Unfortunately, safety statistics are not as easily available as they should be. During a 2009 hearing before Congress, experts bemoaned the sorry state of the nation's school-safety statisitcs and how shoddy records have a deleterious effect on school security as a whole.
Tips for parents ...