School safety requires stronger relationships

School safety is everybody’s business. Protecting children in school takes everybody working together, in the schools and the homes, especially, but also throughout the community.

And, like anything else worthwhile, school safety is a continuing struggle.

As former Everett Superintendent Jane Hammond told a community gathering earlier this month, there are no simple answers. Hammond knows. She is the superintendent of schools in Colorado’s Jefferson County, where Columbine High School suffered the nation’s worst school shooting.

On April 20, 1999, 12 students and one teacher died at the hands of other students.

Since then, Hammond has talked to numerous groups about school safety. Hammond honors the dead by helping prevent similar tragedies. As Hammond tells people, if it could happen at Columbine it could happen anywhere. And if it could happen on one day, it could happen anytime.

School superintendents in Snohomish County have taken Hammond’s message to heart, and used it in working with their staffs, students and communities to improve safety. Several attended her recent presentation, finding themselves deeply moved even though most had heard her address the issue before. Mukilteo Superintendent Gary Toothaker says that anyone listening to Hammond discuss Columbine realizes intensely that there are no guarantees. But improvements can be made.

As Hammond notes, schools are usually the safest places in any community. Even school shootings — like crime generally — have fallen, although more of the crimes have involved multiple victims in recent years. The experience of Columbine has convinced Hammond that simple solutions — from gun control to metal detectors — aren’t the way to make students safer and more secure.

Instead, Hammond says, safety can be most improved by building relationships. For instance, Edmonds Superintendent Wayne Robertson says that virtually every school has programs, often involving regular class meetings, that help students with problem solving, inclusiveness and dealing with alienation. And, the superintendents all believe, that adults in schools and the community need to reach out to young people. Then a student has someone to turn to when that young person is troubled or knows of another student who is. The result of such efforts, says Lakewood Superintendent Kristine McDuffy, is that students in her district feel very comfortable bringing up potential safety issues. In Everett and other districts, many students have organized chapters of groups dedicated to improving school safety.

The effort to build stronger connections has to go beyond the school walls and beyond the families of students. The need, as Everett Superintendent Carol Whitehead puts it, is for both the "outside relationships and the inside relationships." And the superintendents are downright effusive in their praise for the support they have received from city and county governments, police departments and the sheriff’s office. The cooperation extends over a wide range of activities, including the placement of officers in school, increased emergency training and the development of joint emergency communication systems.

As impossible as guarantees may be, students can know that they are part of a community that cares about them and their safety. That type of knowledge will help both learning and the effort to make schools safe as possible.

SELECT *

FROM Talkback

WHERE Story LIKE ‘../Stories/00/9/24/12991809.cfm’

AND Dateverified LIKE ‘verified’

ORDER BY Dateposted

Talk back

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

EMBARGO: No electronic distribution, Web posting or street sales before WEDNESDAY 3:01 A.M. ET, Feb. 28, 2024. No exceptions for any reasons. EMBARGO set by source. FILE — An AR-15 style firearm at Clark Brothers Gun Shop in Warrenton, Va., Feb. 25, 2018. The Supreme Court will soon hear arguments about a bump stock ban, a Trump administration rule put in place after the Las Vegas massacre. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)
Editorial: U.S. Supreme Court ‘ducks’ reason on bump stocks

The majority defies common sense and ignores potential violence to rule against a regulatory agency.

Blow: Juneteenth marked end to slavery; freedom’s taken longer

For most ‘freed’ slaves, emancipation came with strings that tied them to their work and former masters.

Justice should have removed controversial flags

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, as one of the most powerful,… Continue reading

Trump supporters should broaden sources beyond Fox News

After reading the recent letter listing reasons for voting for Trump, I… Continue reading

Kristof: Why West Coast liberals can’t get out of their own way

Politics is part theater, but out West too often we settle for being performative rather than substantive.

Father's Day is a holiday of honouring fatherhood and paternal bonds, as well as the influence of fathers in society.
Editorial: Men, boys could use a little help to be better men

The work of fathers could be aided by a state commission focused on the issues of boys and men.

The City of Everett is set to purchase two single sidewalk restrooms from Romtec, a company based in Roseburg, Ore., for $315,000. (Romtec)
Editorial: Utilitarian but sturdy restrooms should be a relief

Everett is placing four stalls downtown that should be accessible but less prone to problems.

Artist Natalie Niblack works amongst her project entitled “33 Birds / Three Degrees” during the setup for Exploring The Edge at Schack Art Center on Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Everett, Washington. The paintings feature motion-activated speakers that play each bird’s unique call. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: For 50 years Schack Art Center there for creation

The art center is more art studio than museum, supporting artists and fostering creativity in kids.

toon
Editorial cartoons for Tuesday, June 18

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Paul: Warning on social media helps, but much more necessary

We know the harms social media causes children; Congress should take steps to better regulate it.

Goldberg: Trump movie not coming soon to a theater near you

A movie about Trump and his lawyer, Roy Cohn, can’t find a U.S. distributor. Take a guess why.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.