Safety in Schools: Safety Issues in Schools

Safety is a state of being safe and protected from danger or harm. safety can also be defined as freedom from danger; protection from or not being exposed to the risk of harm or injury, inability to cause or result in harm, injury, or damage, and in terms of a place it is a place where damage or harm is very unlikely (Shaw 1). There are various forms of safety issues in schools: In the United States, definitions about school safety issues include combinations of bullying, fighting, gang activity, weapons at school, school shootings, violence against authority figures or school staff, violence against peers, racial or bias-motivated violence or intimidation and vandalism (Shaw 2).

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Bullying is one form of safety issue in schools. It can be seen when some students do or say things that are offensive in order to feel superior to others. Some of the ways that bullies use to intimidate others are like calling names, saying or writing nasty things about others and this form of bullying has been extended even by the use of internet especially on myspace. Nowadays, students use my space to write nasty things about their classmates and sometimes the victimized students are not able to cope with the situation and feel rejected by their colleagues. They even go to the extent of committing suicide. Other forms of bullying are: leaving the victims out of activities, not talking to them, threatening them, making them feel uncomfortable or scared, taking or damaging their things, hitting, kicking, making fun of them, and also forcing them to do things they do not want to do.

Violence in schools

Violence is the use of physical force to injure somebody or damage something. Violence can be seen in many forms such as peer aggression and sexual aggression.

What makes schools safe? School safety has become a significant part of education. Until a rash of school shootings in the mid-1990s, suburban and rural school districts placed little effort into safety and security procedures and training. After the Columbine school shooting, many school officials began to ask questions about their own vulnerability. With time, they began to experiment with new safety procedures and policies (SERAPH Research Team). We cannot put the safety of school at 100% as such incidences of the columbine shooting were a major hitch to the security of the children (Shaw 1). Violent acts in schools, such as school shootings have had a profound impact, resulting in policies and programs that aim at protecting students and prevent these occurrences. Keeping schools safe is all “about having plans in place to prevent crises and to deal with those that arise”. It is about having day-to-day practices that reduce violence and intimidation, providing safe places for victims and responding swiftly to perpetrators” (Shaw 2). Prevention involves a wide range of approaches and offers many tangible rewards (Shaw 2).

Some of the approaches that have been used in the recent past are the installation of security devices such as cameras and electric fencing. Other approaches that have been used are hiring security guards and searching students’ lockers. However, in some cases, these approaches have not been very effective, such as the case of a school shoot-out in New Orleans. Two teenage boys shot and wounded each other with the same gun during a fight at their middle school after a 13-year-old expelled student slipped the weapon to one of them through a fence (Shaw 2). For the success of the security issues in schools, they have had to change their attitude about the surrounding communities and the health and well-being of the families the children come from. Is feeling safe the same as being safe? Feeling safe is not the same as being safe but the illusion helps us cope with our surroundings. “Feeling safe is clearly related to the effectiveness of public safety in keeping overt violence in a community low. Feeling attached and contained is observed to be related to a person’s experience of belonging and feeling safe” (Twemlow, Fonagy& Sacco 5). Children feel safer when they can see and feel their protectors and when their protectors are effective in combating the negative influences leading to violence (Twemlow, Fonagy& Sacco 5). Exposure of children to television violence has been extensively studied. This study found, violence contributes to learning aggressive behavior, desensitizes children to violence and increases fear of victimization. This same study was done with high school students “ showed that exposure to media violence promoted PTSD-like symptoms including fear of being alone, nightmares, and withdrawal from friends” (Twemlow, Fonagy& Sacco 6). This media violence also led to unsafe feelings these feelings were generated by repeated violence exposure on television, and then aggravated when family members are similarly feeling unsafe (Twemlow, Fonagy& Sacco 6). Feeling safe is also related to how much drug and alcohol abuse exists. The more drugs and alcohol present in a community, the greater the risk of violence. Therefore, prevalence of drug use and alcohol is directly related to the feeling of safety.

The media has also played a great negative role in forecasting incidences occurring in schools. It has taken the role of dispersing information globally about the rare but tragic cases of school shootings. Ironically, students and parents alike, have become more afraid and feel less safe in relation to school despite the known reported drop in overall school crime (Twemlow, Fonagy & Sacco 6). The school should offer students recreational facilities in order to keep their calm. This highlights the potential role of parks and recreation programs, community programs, the Boy and Girl Scouts and community centers as ways of assisting community members to feel safe(Twemlow, Fonagy & Sacco 7). Simply put, having a routine and a productive place to go can be an important factor in feeling safe. The introduction of school curriculums that train students in self-protection and safety measures is another sure way of helping the students to feel safe. Feeling safe is also related to the social climate. When students engage themselves in altruistic behaviors such as cooperating, helping or consoling, their academic achievement improves. Having friends and being helpful contribute to a sense of safety and success (Twemlow, Fonagy & Sacco 7). The illusion of safety can also be seen when the students feel respected and valued. The feeling of safety can well be summarized by the following factors: relationships, community violence, and presence of adults, laws, presence of drugs and alcohol, media violence. Ways to make a student or person feel safe in a community: the presence of a safe park retreat, training in personal safety techniques, good relationships with peers and friends, engaging in altruistic behaviors and a sense of belonging to a community (Twemlow, Fonagy & Sacco 8). The school can also be able to increase its safety by adopting a rehabilitation process in cases of drug and substance use. Middle school is the best time for helping youths acquire skills to make good decisions about alcohol, tobacco, drugs and violence. Research indicates that, classroom curricula based on the social influences model are most effective at the middle school level(SERAPH Research Team). The Social-influences prevention curriculum should have basic information lessons addressing involvement in long- and short-term physical consequences, decision-making, and public commitment.

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Social influence lessons are designed to change the social norm and teach refusal skills. Informational social influence lessons attempt to modify prevalence overestimates, raise social awareness of adult and media influences and increase youth activism through correcting advertisements and writing to policymakers (O’Connell 3). “Prevention programs should reduce the risk factors in students’ lives and increase the factors that protect students. A primary protective factor that schools can address is students’ sense of closeness to and connectedness with the school. This factor is measured by whether students feel that teachers care about them and are fair and whether they feel a sense of belonging to the school” (O’Connell 3). Something else that should be addressed is parenting. Parenting plays a critical role in the development process of children. Early discipline failures are a primary causal factor in the development of conduct problems. “Harsh discipline, low supervision, lack of parental involvement all add to the development of aggressive children” (SERAPH Research Team 6). This can be seen as the contributing factor towards bullying and violent children.

Conclusion

School violence happens on all grade levels and it is important that staff have proper training on how to identify and manage aggressive children. Therefore, Social workers, counselors, teachers, and principals need a more accurate understanding of how aggression increases in children and how this relates to family dynamics and the management of school environments’ (SERAPH Research Team 6).

Works cited

O’Connell, Jack. What Does Getting Results Say About Effective Prevention Strategies for Elementary School Youths? State Superintendent of Public Instruction California Department of Education, Sacramento, 2 (2004).

Shaw, Margaret. Promoting safety in schools: international experience aid. Crime prevention series. 3(2001) 1-64

SERAPH Research Team. “The state of school safety in American schools.” Web.

Twemlow, Stuart. Fonagy, Peter&. Sacco, Frank. Feeling safe in school. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 72(2), (2002) 303-326.

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