are public schools safe?
Safety and quality of education in public schools
Are public schools safe? Is the quality of education in public schools up to acceptable standards? These are questions that have been asked many times during public debates, political conventions, parent-teacher meetings and many other places but are the answers given ever satisfactory? As the students were returning to school after the shooting incidence, parents whose children are enrolled at the Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown for the first time saw the school in a different light. As they looked around at the infrastructure of the school, the fence, the doors and the building on the inside they kept asking themselves whether these facilities were adequate for the safety of their kids. Even though public schools have their flaws, there is a lot more positivity that comes along with these schools that people don’t consider before passing judgment on them.
A study conducted by the National Centre for Education Statistics (NCES) for the year 2013-2014 for safety and discipline in public schools. In this study, public schools were found to take precautionary security measures with 93% controlling access to the school facilities when school was in progress. 75% of public schools had security cameras too. 68% of these schools also required that all their staff to wear their work identity cards while 58% had a strict code of dressing that for all students and personnel. Training of the staff on safety measures was reported by 95% of public schools while 89% percent also included study practices on how to handle bullying. This training included being able to point out warning of children who are most likely bully others. In the event of shooting in the school, 88% of public schools had a written down procedure on the course of action (Abend, 1). 70% percent of the schools had conducted a drill of these methods with their students while an additional 72% percent had a plan written down on how to deal with suicide attempts and threats on the school premises.
The research further revealed that 43% of public schools at least once a week had a security officer present and the security officer usually participated in school activities. These activities included patrolling the school and safety enforcement, coordination with other security teams including emergency teams and the police. However, 37% public schools also reported an occurrence of bullying at least once every week. 65% reported a violent incident at least once in the 2013-2014 period.
Irrespective of some of the encouraging data obtained in the course of the above survey, it is not uncommon for schools, especially public school to show reluctance in adhering to set rules and policies. When the school days are perceived to be ordinary days some these rules and safety policies may not even be in the application. Where visitors are supposed to sign in before entering the school, the parents themselves may go in without signing-in. In an attempt to avoid tedious access protocols the parents may not even care that no one is enforcing the safety measures until something disastrous happens. There are also a lot of inconsistencies in the school safety and security policies. These differences come to be because no governing body is responsible for coming up with school safety and security plans. This leaves the responsibility for setting these policies to the school themselves. With more than 13,000 schools in the U.S, there is no reason these policies wouldn’t have a lot of variations from school to school (Bonnie, 1).
Ultimately, funding is the primary function that dictates the quality of security that can be provided. With adequate funding for security purposes, schools can offer better security for the nation’s students, pupils and staff alike. An under-performing economy shouldn’t be a reason for the governments and education governing bodies to assume security costs while funding other programs lest insecurity calamities are striking the nation more frequently and quickly.
Other than security, another major issue that citizens may question is the quality of education in public schools. When most people hear the term ‘public education’ what come to their minds is an image a school in the neighborhood open to all sorts of kids in the society. Despite the negative image of public schools in the community, there also much other excellent values that are carried along by public schools. Public schools also offer tuition-free education, equal education of all kids in the society, oversight by policy making bodies in the activities of administrators, teachers, and school activities. In these schools there is a clear definition of the rights of both the students and the parents and thus enforceable by the law courts (Center for Public Education, 1).
When attending public schools, students have access to a system that has: public accountability and high standards, education that is relevant to the free market, promotion of shared values, promotion of democracy, teaching students the common culture, and living in a diverse society.
Public schools maintain high education standards and public accountability. For instance, in the United States, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) ensures the state fulfill its responsibility and holds public schools accountable for their achievement in academics designated sanctions and reporting of poor performance (Lucinda, 1). Private schools are not bound by this obligation to the public. In addition to this, all public school teachers are required to be qualified and licensed so as to participate in teaching programs in the public schools.
To make students relevant in the free market, students in public schools have more choices in both curricular and extracurricular activities. Initiatives such as Magnet schools, charter schools, paired schools, schools within schools and open-enrollment programs provide more to students in private schools. These schools also acknowledge that students can have doors of success open through different ways and thus promote talents, recognizing variation in student preferences, incorporate different learning styles, and educational technology. These are done while still maintaining high standards in the core curriculum.
Promotion of shared values also takes place in public schools. Public school are positioned appropriately in conveying different religious values, cultural values of various backgrounds, and other vital concepts in the society. These values promote traits such as patriotism, fairness, respect for others, punctuality, teamwork among many others. Conveyance of this values goes beyond what is taught to the students by the teachers and even more into the day-to-day school practices. Through this preparation, there are shared values and expectations among the people brought up in this system that lead to the prosperity and healthy functioning of the society.
Public schools also contribute to the promotion democracy in the society. This function is crucial since the nation needs people that practice and value certain principles in the society. These value in question include civic responsibility, respect for the law, freedom and equality for all, social mobility, self-governance among others. These principles are not inborn but rather they are nurtured. The teaching of these values is not a standard educational requirement in all academic institutions but fortunately, public schools are in a unique position to expose students in a way they can learn and practice these values and thus possessing them even when they join the society in their adulthood (Richie, 1). This takes us back to our initial conviction that despite the quick judgment passed on public schools, there is a lot more positivity that they bring along that people don’t consider.
Abend, A., et al. “Evaluating Quality in Educational Facilities”, PEB Exchange, Programme on Educational Building, No. 2006/01,. OECD Publishing, Paris.DOI: 23 June 2006.Web. 9 December 2015.< http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/530661814151>
Bonnie Rochman. School Security: Why It’s So Hard to Keep Kids Safe,. 23 January 2012. Web. 9 December 2015.< http://healthland.time.com/2012/12/18/school-security-why-its-so-hard-to-keep-kids-safe/>
Center for Public Education, .An American Imperative: Public Education,. 23 July 2006. Web. 9 December 2015.<http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Public-education/An-American-imperative-Public-education->
Lucinda. G and Laurie. L,. Public School Safety and Discipline: 2013-14. 2 March 2015. Web. 9 December 2015.< http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2015/2015051.pdf>
Richie Bernado.2015’s States with the Best and Worst School Systems. 14 August 2015. Web. 9 December 2015.<https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-the-best-schools/5335/>