Articles in the School Buildings category

Schools safer in the wake of Columbine shootings and 9/11, say educators and security experts

Ronald D. Stephens has worked in school security for nearly 28 years. As executive director of the National School Safety Center in California, he’s consulted with school officials in places linked forever with school shootings — places like Red Lake, Minn.; Paducah, Ky., Broward County, Fla.; and Littleton, Colo.

But, in one sense, Newtown, Conn., is different, Stephens said.

“I have never seen a school shooting that has been so vicious, so heartless, so callous” as the one that killed 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Stephens said.

The majority of the victims, as much of the world now knows, were 6- and 7-year-olds. Six adults were also shot and killed at the school, including the gunman, Adam Lanza, who took his own life and that of his mother, whom he shot in their home before driving to the school.

Given the horrific nature of the crime, the next point Stephens made might be hard for the public to grasp: Children are safer in school than outside of it. About 100 times safer, if you do the math — and Stephens has.

Since the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999, districts have done many things to make schools safer. They’ve installed security systems and initiated better screening of visitors. Many have hired school resource officer. And they’ve adopted school safety plans, which anticipate threats and specify what adults and children will do in the event of everything from earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes, to a gunman on campus.

“After Columbine, there was a lot more emphasis placed on safe school plans,” said Eric Sparks, assistant director of the American School Counselor Association.

No longer simply a vague plan “sitting on a shelf,” the safe schools plan became a working document that addressed specific threats, including the threat of violence. Schools also took training for students and staff more seriously. They had lockdown drills and practiced the routines they would need to follow in case of emergency.

It’s perhaps hard to imagine anything worse than what happened at Sandy Hook. Yet without the kind of training staff members received — and the extraordinary degree of courage and composure they displayed — the Dec. 14 shootings might have claimed even more lives.

“As horrific as the tragedy was in Newtown, it could have been much worse had the teachers, the staff, the principal, the administrators not followed the lockdown procedures they had been trained to follow, had they not actually taken the children and secluded them, really depriving the killer of further targets,” NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón said on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal. “So it was their training to basically ferret out the children — keeping them safe, keeping them calm — that made this a less horrific tragedy than it could have been, in terms of numbers.”

In the days after the shooting, Negrón also spoke on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” where he said that the recent shooting by an external gunman represented “a turning point” in the discussion of school safety. He said this should elicit discussions between district officials and law enforcement about how to deal with a shooter from outside the school community. In the wake of Columbine and other school shootings, schools focused on internal issues, such as school climate and bullying, and on identifying students with mental problems. This kind of effort, while essential, does not address a threat posed from outside.

Negrón told C-SPAN that moves to arm teachers and administrators, which have been suggested by Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and others, are not the answer because school staff members are not routinely trained in law enforcement.

“Teachers and administrators are hired to teach our children,” Negrón said. “That’s a very different skill set [from law enforcement].”

Sparks, of the American School Counselor Association, agreed.

“Having school staff with guns — that would be a challenging situation in terms of training and school safety,” Sparks said. “And it takes a whole different angle on the possibility of things going wrong.”

That could include gun accidents and other unintended consequences of adding firepower to some 120,000 places across the country that were designed for learning – what Stephens likened to creating “120,000 Fort Knoxes.” Is that the kind of climate we want for our children? he asked.

And even these actions would not ensure protection from a heavily armed intruder, unconcerned for his own life and bent on mass murder, Stephens said.

“I don’t know of a school district in America that is prepared to deal with assault-style attacks on their campuses.”

Lawrence Hardy|December 21st, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Crisis Management, School Buildings, School Climate, School Security|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Safety experts to advise school leaders in NSBA webinar

The school shootings in Newtown, Conn., have left school leaders searching for ways to make sure they are keeping their students, staff, and communities safe from harm.

When looking for advice, it’s best to seek out people who have experience – and Shamus O’Meara and Rick Kaufman certainly fit the bill. O’Meara, a partner with the Minneapolis law firm Johnson Condon, Attorneys at Law P.A., represented and advised the Red Lake and Rocori school districts in their school shooting incidents. Kaufman was the communications director for Colorado’s Jefferson County School District during the Columbine High School shootings 13 years ago.

Both men will be featured in a free webinar for school leaders, administrators, and school attorneys: “Planning For and Managing the School Crisis You Hope Never Comes.” The webinar, sponsored by NSBA’s Office of General Counsel and the Council of School Attorneys (COSA) will be held Friday from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. EST. Register at https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/219019864.

“We hope that this webinar provides school leaders and attorneys with a solid foundation for review or development of school emergency plans and procedures,” says Sonja Trainor, director of COSA. “We are deeply thankful to Shamus O’Meara and Rick Kaufman, both national experts on school emergency planning and response, for giving their time and expertise for this webinar.”

O’Meara will discuss the importance of school safety plans as “living and breathing, not stuck in drawers,” he says. “School leaders, administrator, parents, and students — everyone involved with the school should take ownership of plan, so we are safely educating our students.”

In the decade since the Columbine High School shootings and 9/11, awareness about the need for security in public buildings, including schools, has been heightened, says O’Meara. And schools also have recognized that they are not alone in dealing with security and safety issues.

“A number of partners have to be involved, not just law enforcement,” he says. “Mental health, counseling services, and social services – they all need to be part of a dialog that is in turn part of school safety planning.”

One aspect of a good safety plan is how to communicate to parents, staff, students, and the community during and after a crisis. Kaufman, who is now director of community relations and emergency management for Minnesota’s Bloomington Public Schools, lived through the nightmare of Columbine.

The Columbine shootings changed the landscape of school security and raised questions of school climate. The biggest change that Kaufman has seen since the Colorado shootings has been the rise of social media use and the speed in which information travels. He encourages school districts to consider communications through many different ways.

“Districts must respond very quickly through different channels. If your district doesn’t use social media, you will be caught behind the eight ball in dealing with the crisis,” he says. “You can’t rely on just email or a rapid notification system.”

Through his work with the National School Public Relations Association, Kaufman helped in the development of rapid response teams of school communications professionals that are available to help districts that are dealing with a crisis.

O’Meara and Kaufman will offer strategies and resources for school leaders, and will be responding to questions during the webinar.

 

Kathleen Vail|December 19th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Announcements, Board governance, School Buildings, School Climate, School Law, School Security|Tags: |

School security articles available at American School Board Journal

In her 2006 article, “A Measured Approach,” which was written after several school shootings by individuals with no connection to the schools, American School Board Journal editor Naomi Dillon wrote: “From fostering a positive and inviting school climate, to teaching and modeling good behavior, to encouraging students and staff to be the eyes and ears of the building, schools can do a lot to make themselves unsuitable targets for unstable individuals.”

The horrific events in Newtown, Conn., have most of us looking for answers again. As school leaders, you are searching anew for information on security – disaster planning, safeguards, and the kind of prevention described in Dillon’s article. ASBJ can help provide that information for you: The magazine has published many articles on school safety for school leaders over the years. Usually only open to subscribers or available for purchase, the articles will be open to the public at our topical archive, Safe From Harm.

At the top of the list of articles is a look back at the Columbine shootings – interviews with the principal, counselor, superintendent, communications official, and others who experienced the events on that day in 1999.

Other articles include: “Communicating During a Crisis,” by school safety expert Ken Trump, who gives tips on how make sure your schools have well-developed and exercised safety and crisis plans and your staff is trained to implement them.

In “Safe From Harm,” ASBJ law columnist Ed Darden notes that a get-tough stance is tempting, but compassion and conversations are just as important.

Dillon writes of the importance of disaster planning in “Do You Have a Disaster Plan?”

Many other articles are available for reading and for download.  Please give us your feedback on what other kinds of security articles you’d find most useful.

 

 

Kathleen Vail|December 17th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Crisis Management, School Buildings, School Climate, School Law, School Security|Tags: , , , , , |

School security issues at the forefront of December ASBJ

Vandalism — destroying school property — remains a constant problem for many if not all school districts. Senior Editor Del Stover, in American School Board Journal’s December cover story, online now, looks at ways that districts combat the issue. Cameras, lighting, and extra personnel are all options. However, some districts are looking at how caring  relationships among adults and students can be the ultimate deterrent.

Also in the new issue: After a national report revealed that black and hispanic students are suspended at a higher rate than white students, many schools are backing off from rigid zero-tolerance policies. Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy chronicles how districts are working to decriminalize student discipline.

When you visit ASBJ online, take the Adviser Facebook poll on whether school security cameras work and check out our webinar offerings.

Kathleen Vail|December 4th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, School Buildings, School Climate, School Law, School Security|

Learning by Design shows award-winning facilities in new issue

Learning By Design’s  Fall 2012 edition is focusing on projects committed to advancing educational design excellence and creating innovative, collaborative learning environments. The magazine, which is published twice each year by the National School Boards Association, American School Board Journal, and Stratton Publishing,  shows the nation’s best education design and construction projects, from pre-k-12 to college and university facilities.

The three 2012 Grand Award winners included: Trilogy Architecture • Urban Design • Research (Redding, Calif.) for Redding School of the Arts; NAC|Architecture (Seattle) for Riverview Elementary School; and Nagle Hartray Architecture (Chicago) for Latin School of Chicago.

A jury of architects reviewed and selected the projects that appear in the Fall 2012 edition and named this year’s honorees. The judges noted that although the three Grand Award-winning projects are vastly different in terms of function and context, all of the projects adopted an innovative design approach that prioritizes collaborative learning. The three Grand Award-winning educational facilities provide a variety of formal and informal learning spaces that foster growth and development.

For details and to access the magazine’s digital edition, visit www.learningbydesign.biz.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|October 19th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Announcements, NSBA Publications, NSBA Recognition Programs, School Buildings|Tags: |

NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference to feature Geena Davis, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Diane Ravitch

Registration and housing for the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 73rd Annual Conference, to be held April 13 to 15 in San Diego, is now open. Join more than 5,000 school board members and administrators for an event with hundreds of sessions, workshops, and exhibits that will help your school district programs and help you hone your leadership and management skills.

General Session speakers include Academy Award winning speaker Geena Davis, who will be speaking about her work off-screen as founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Davis works with film and television creators to reduce gender stereotyping and increase the number of female characters in media targeted for children 11 and under. She will explain how media plays a key role in children’s development, and how her organization is making a difference.

Television star Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the world’s most engaging and passionate science advocates, will headline Sunday’s General Session. From PBS to NASA to Presidential Commissions, organizations have depended on Tyson’s down-to-earth approach to astrophysics. He has been a frequent guest on “The Daily Show”, “The Colbert Report”, R”eal Time with Bill Maher”, and “Jeopardy!”. Tyson hopes to reach “all the people who never knew how much they’d love learning about space and science.”

Monday’s General Session features acclaimed researcher and author Diane Ravitch, who has become one of the most passionate voices for public schools. Her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, makes the case that public education today is in peril and offers a clear prescription for improving public schools.

Learn more about the common core standards, new research on differentiated learning styles, and teaching “unteachable” children at the Focus On lecture series. Learn about new technologies for your classrooms as part of the Technology + Learning programs.

Special discounted rates are available for early registrants who sign up by Jan. 10, 2013. NSBA National Affiliate and Technology Leadership Network Districts save even more.

View the conference brochure for more details. Be sure to check the Annual Conference website for updates and more information.

 

 

Bryant honors new “Green Ribbon” schools at ceremony

National School Boards Association Executive Director Anne L. Bryant helped honor a group of schools with environmentally friendly designs that have integrated student learning into the features of their buildings and environments.

A June 4 ceremony was the inaugural event for the U.S. Department of Education’s new “Green Ribbon” program, designed to recognize schools with facilities that have reduced environmental impact, improved the health of their students, and have coordinated effective environmental education. Some 78 schools received the award, some with newly constructed buildings and others which had undergone “green” renovations.

“Reading through each story of the winning schools I see hope, light, and a focus on real 21st century learning,” Bryant said. “These schools used the physical structures, whether gardens, forests or solar energized school buildings, to teach STEM and analytical thinking, project based learning, problem solving, critical thinking and teamwork. 21st Century learning reinforces communication skills, creativity, and collaboration.”

Bryant pointed to examples of winners, such as Longfellow Elementary School in Long Beach, Calif. The school won a 2011 Energy Star award with a perfect score of 100, partners with a local middle school to share best practices, gives each teacher professional development in environmental sustainability, conducts all physical education classes outside and hosts a “Walk to School Wednesday” to engage not only students but community members.

Bryant was also particularly impressed with Terra Environmental Institute in Miami, a science-focused magnet high school that focuses on engineering, medical, and biological science courses to promote learning and conservation techniques.

For more details about this year’s winning schools and the Education Department’s Green Ribbon program, go to:

http://www2.ed.gov/programs/green-ribbon-schools/highlights-2012.pdf

Joetta Sack-Min|June 11th, 2012|Categories: Environmental Issues, School Buildings|Tags: , |

Turning America’s schools “green”

The U.S. Department of Education announced this week that 33 states and the District of Columbia have submitted intents to nominate schools for the new Green Ribbon Schools awards program launched this past September. Schools nominated by state education agencies are eligible to receive the award.

Participating states, as well as the District of Columbia, to date are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The Department also received intent to nominate from the Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Education school district.

The program asks states to nominate schools in their jurisdiction that come closest to achieving the high bar that Green Ribbon sets: net zero environmental impact of facilities, net positive health impact on students and staff, and 100% environmentally literate graduates.

Participating states are currently posting applications for schools in their jurisdictions, and will submit nominees to the Department by March 22, 2012. The Department will announce winners in April, 2012 and will host the first national U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools ceremony in Washington, D.C., in late May 2012. The national ceremony will be followed by local ceremonies at each of the winning schools in fall 2012.

BoardBuzz likes this and is proud that the National School Boards Association is part of the executive committee of the Coalition for Green Schools. To learn more about greening your school district, check out the resources from the Center for Green Schools.

Alexis Rice|December 8th, 2011|Categories: Environmental Issues, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Buildings|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs

President Obama’s “American Jobs Act” – part of the $477 billion legislative package he proposed to Congress Thursday night – includes $30 billion in new funds to prevent more teacher layoffs and  another $25 billion in school construction money that could help rebuild 35,000 schools.

Sounds great. But is it too good to be true? Afraid so, writes Alison Klein in Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog:

“There’s almost no chance that Republicans—who generally think the $100 billion for education in the stimulus was a giant waste of money—will rush to support this,” Klein writes. “Remember, the administration had a very tough time getting Congress to approve $10 billion for the Education Jobs Fund back in the summer of 2010, when Democrats had healthy majorities in both chambers.”

For a simpler, graphic representation of the above analysis, see Tom Toles’ cartoon Friday in the Washington Post.

But do schools really need that $25 billion in construction funds. Well……yes, writes the Post’s Valerie Strauss. She notes that decades of research have shown a link between the condition of buildings and student health, attendance, teacher recruitment, and, most critically, student achievement.

Speaking of student achievement, read Peg Tyre’s critique of standardized testing on Freakonomics. (Thanks to This Week in Education for highlighting it.)  You no doubt have heard a lot of arguments against standardized tests, but Tyre’s is the most unique — and intriguing — that I’ve read in recent months.

Of course, there’s another side. And that’s part of what makes education policy so interesting and, sometimes, maddening. For a positive reassessment of testing, see “Putting Myself to the Test,” by Ama Nyamekye, in Edweek.

Lawrence Hardy|September 10th, 2011|Categories: Budgeting, School Buildings, Teachers, Uncategorized, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , |

Life in Real Time

201323_10150163939134893_26415584892_6473475_7572509_oLast month, everywhere I looked during NSBA’s Annual Conference, officials from Missouri’s Joplin Public Schools were talking about Bright Futures. The district won this year’s Magna Award grand prize for the program, which works to build partnerships among schools, community members, businesses, and agencies to serve students in need.

Today, the immediate future is not looking as bright, and the entire Joplin community is in need.

On Sunday, a massive tornado struck this town of nearly 50,000, killing at least 116 people and injuring more than 1,100. It is the highest death toll from a single tornado since 1953.

The event was the latest in a series of devastating spring tornados that have pounded communities across the Southeast and through the Midwest. Just four weeks ago, 315 people were killed when a series of tornadoes struck in five states: Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, and Virginia.

According to news reports, the late afternoon twister destroyed three schools, leaving two others and the central office seriously damaged as it ripped through the middle of this city 160 miles south of Kansas City. Graduation ceremonies for Joplin’s Class of 2011 were wrapping up at Missouri Southern State University when the tornado struck around 5:30 p.m. The high school itself was destroyed.
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Kathleen Vail|May 24th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Dropout Prevention, Governance, NSBA Publications, School Buildings|
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