How Safe Is My School?

For decades now, we’ve talked about school security.  Metal detectors have become the norm in many urban schools, and we talk about arming teachers in rural and suburban schools to confront some of the school violence we’ve seen over the last decade.  All the talk sends a core message — can our children learn if they aren’t safe?

Two decades ago, the movie Lean on Me told the real-life story of Joe Clark and his crusade to save a New Jersey high school about to implode.  For those who don’t remember the Morgan Freeman movie, Clark almost lost his job after chaining the school doors to keep the drug dealers out, and was only saved when his test scores showed he had improved student performance where all hope was lost.

That was the 1980s.  Clearly, we’ve learned a thing or two since then.  Right?

Imagine Eduflack’s surprise, then, when it was reported in most Washington, DC media outlets this morning that DCPS was finally eliminating the chains on some of its high school doors, replacing them with honest-to-goodness state-of-the-art security doors?

Did we learn nothing from Lean on Me?  Are we honestly saying that for all of the talk the past decade about improving DC’s schools and the increased concern for student safety, that no one thought that padlocks and rusted chains weren’t a priority issue that demanded attention?

Sure, there is scant evidence that a safe school directly results in increased student achievement.  But it is common sense that an unsafe school doesn’t provide the learning environment kids need to succeed.

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