Recently, School Safety Week was celebrated around the United States. School Safety must always be at the forefront of any agenda that is directed towards the protection of students. This includes developing a safe schools plan – an ongoing process that encompasses the development of district wide crime prevention policies, in-service training, crisis preparation, inter-agency cooperation and student/parent participation. An appointed task force should develop and implement the plan with representatives from all elements of the school community – board members, employees, students, parents, law enforcers, government and business leaders, the media and local residents.
Our Miami-Dade Schools Police Department (MDSPD) continues to address school safety. However, MDSPD cannot do this alone. We need support of school board members, school employees, students, parents, community residents (including senior citizens), service groups, business leaders, government representatives, media representatives and the entire community.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools Board Members are always helpful and involved in the day to day process of our school security. Board Members are always willing to participate and support our police department to make sure that our students are always safe, both in and out of schools.
Many times, our school employees are at the front of the struggles and challenges our students face. The attitudes and opinions of those employees carry a great deal of weight and can be very helpful in dealing with students and any problems that may arise. Consistent District communication can minimize internal conflict and promote teamwork. A School Resource Officer (SRO) is one of the best resources available to our students and MDSPD. These officers are at the school sites and they can experience events and happenings firsthand.
Students are also great resources for administration and school staff because they can be both causes and victims of much of the crime and misbehavior on campuses. Of course, parents are important in the challenges we experience nowadays in our schools related to school safety. It is important to keep lines of communications open with parents so they can be allied in the fight to keep schools safe for our students. Parents and children need to be made aware of the serious consequences for criminal actions.
Just as communities work together to prevent crime with “Neighborhood Watch” programs, local residents can mobilize to make schools safer. Such mobilization efforts target community residents without school-aged children. It is essential to communicate to this critical group that they do have direct, as well as indirect relationships to local schools. Youth Crime Watch groups are in our schools and they are very supportive and helpful in teaching students how to protect themselves and others from crime.
Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho, together with Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, established a Joint Anti-Violence Roundtable to involve community members in finding solutions to violence in our schools. The community at large is a natural partner for local schools. Stakeholders have a vested interest in good schools: quality education for children who are going to be our future community leaders. They also have a long-range interest: a well-trained work force. The quality of life and the quality of education in the community are inseparable.
It is important to bring on board everyone in the community that can have a positive input towards school safety and the welfare of our students. The support of the general community will promote safety and success for all children.