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Making our schools safe is vital to our future

Updated: July 24, 2013 6:26AM



Living and working in a safe community is a key quality of life factor that we all covet. In fact, it may be the cornerstone on which a community is built. A safe community attracts good people and viable businesses, which lead to a thriving economy, good schools, a solid housing market, an active arts and cultural climate and the subsequent positive community features we seek.

The most recent One Region’s Quality of Life Indicators Report looked at all aspects of public safety — from the fact that major crimes have declined in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties from 2000 through 2010 to noting that our region lacks a trauma center to treat medical emergencies, a potentially life-saving amenity. As a parent and as an educator, I feel it is essential that we do whatever it takes to ensure that our schools are safe havens for our students. Our communities must commit to making sure that our students have safe passage to and from school each day. It is essential that we safeguard our schools, playgrounds and extracurricular activities from violence. From pre-school to graduate school, students and educators should not need to look over their shoulders to watch for trouble, no matter what form it may take.

The report “School Crime and Safety,” by Dr. Michael G. Planty of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, presents sobering information about school safety. For example, the total rate of victimizations of violent crime and theft against students was greater at school than away from school in 2011 — the most recent statistic year. Five percent of high school students reported carrying a weapon on school property at least one day.

In 2011, 28 percent of students aged 12 to 18 reported being bullied at school, holding at about the same level since 2005.

The report noted that 42.8 percent of schools had security staff and 28 percent had security staff armed with a firearm. About 92 percent of schools controlled access to their buildings; 74 percent provided telephones in the classrooms; and 61 percent used security cameras.

Clearly, the nation’s schools are committed to securing the safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors. In remarks he gave recently, President Barack Obama said, “One of the best things schools can do to reduce violence and bullying is to improve a school’s climate and increase trust and communication between students and staff.”

In Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence has signed a bill to allow school corporations to apply for state grants to enhance security. In addition, the Indiana Department of Education has pledged that “each member of the school and community will be partners in providing schools with adequate resources, exemplary leadership and united support for the development of a secure learning environment for all children.”

It offers online resources and an in-person safety training program on all aspects of student safety. Such aspects include weather-related emergencies, a bomb threat, hazing or bullying or a threat of violence that comes from a student, a staff member or an intruder.

Locally, school safety is an ongoing, ever-evolving mission. Our school districts continue to evaluate policies and train students and personnel in a wide variety of emergency procedures. School officials partner with parents and community members to reinforce the reality that providing safe schools is a shared responsibility.

We should heed the call to action that concludes the Indicators Report on public safety, “The region needs to take a cooperative, regional approach to public safety; to understand more about crime and all the dangers to the residents of Northwest Indiana; and to freely share that knowledge.”

Working together to ensure the safety of our schools and our community is vital to the future of Northwest Indiana.



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