Students Want To Create Safer Spaces
In fact, many students may even be wondering what they can do to help make their school environment a safer place. It makes sense that parents would not be the only ones concerned with school safety, as it’s the students who spend a large chunk of their time on their school’s campus. So, it also makes sense that faculty members and parents should not be the only ones tasked with promoting and encouraging school safety.
There are many reasons that students should be involved with the safety of their school or campus. First of all, it gives them a sense of responsibility. Secondly, it gives students pride in their environment. Next, it gives them a sense of community while also working to eliminate some feelings of helplessness that are all too common on many campuses. In short, they often want to do something, but they just don’t know where to start.
The first step in getting students involved in their school’s safety is to simply invite them. But, when you extend the invite, make sure it is genuine. When they offer their opinions, embrace them and care about them, or they won’t offer them anymore. If you make the mistake of thinking your students don’t care, they won’t care. Once you have created an environment where students are encouraged to participate in school safety, there are a variety of ways to get them involved, some of which are detailed in the next sections.
Ways to Encourage Participation
Students want to be social, as evidenced by a little craze known as social media. Students are rarely without their laptops and almost never without their cell phones. But digital interaction is not enough; they also need to socialize in person, and their universities can help promote those gatherings. And, students who are active in school activities and stay busy are less likely to feel alone, isolated or angry. So, you can promote student interaction and school safety at the same time by encouraging students who are wondering what they can do to help with school safety to begin a club or organization devoted to staying safe on campus.
If they don’t know where to start, they can take a look at an already established group called SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere). This group was started by students in response to a classmate’s violent death on their campus. The group has now extended across the country and is in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, community-youth organizations- as well as colleges and universities.
In less than three decades, SAVE has grown from its initial chapter in Charlotte, North Carolina, to boast over 220,000 members representing over two thousand schools. Though coordinated by a North Carolina-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the group is led by students and led for students. Since their inception, SAVE chapters have used orange and purple as their colors- orange in remembrance of the young man who was killed, Alex Orange, and purple because it is universally associated with peace and nonviolence.
They can start their own chapter of this already established group, or they can start something new. Push them to step outside their comfort zones. Groups like these create an environment where students can go to talk, be open and honest, and not worry that they will be greeted with ridicule.
Ways to Encourage Speaking Up
Since they are already there, take the safety conversation to social media. Start conversations on your school’s page and ask them to contribute, or invite them to start their own conversations. They’re probably already talking, but by inviting the conversations, administrators can show students they are open to their opinion and maybe even find out about issues they weren’t aware of. Because no one knows a campus better than the people learning, working, eating, socializing and even living there.
Ways to Encourage the Adage: See Something, Say Something
It’s an old adage, but students should know that they are welcome and encouraged to report anything they might see that seems out of the ordinary. Encouraging an environment where reported incidents will be greeted with respect and taken seriously will go a long way in ensuring that students feel comfortable reporting anything they may witness.
Furthermore, knowing that there are people everywhere that will take what they witness to the university administrators could just prevent someone thinking of committing a violent act from doing so. It is also important to make sure students are well-educated in the behavior that may indicate a violent student and encourage them to come forward at the first sign of such behavior.
Ways to Make Safety a Routine
Whatever precautions have been put into place on campus to prevent violence or make it easier to call for help, make sure that students are aware of them and even make them a part of their daily route when going to and from class. Of course, make sure they know how to use them, even if they may never have to.
Ask them to save important numbers, such as campus safety or the number to report incidents into their cell phone so it’s there if they need it. Encourage security guards to get to know the students and vice versa. If they know their names and where and when they can expect to see them, not only will students feel more comfortable, but they will also know where to get help if they need it. Students are busy, but incorporating these small changes into their daily routines can be the difference between prevention and “just a second too late.”
Staying Focused on Education
While a plea to educators to focus on education may seem silly, it turns out more is at stake than simply the student’s final grade. Not surprisingly a study recently published in Education Week links high performance in school with a safer environment.
The study finds that “while schools in high-poverty, high-crime neighborhoods tend to be less safe than other schools, students’ level of academic achievement actually plays a bigger role in school safety than a school’s neighborhood.” Additionally, it showed just how important relationships are revealing that the better the relationships between educators and students, the more protected the school.
In short, if students are eager to play a part in the security of their campus, do not ignore them. They are just as invested in their education as the faculty and administrators; therefore, they should be given the chance to make their environment safer for themselves and future students.