Safety and security in Salem-Keizer schools has been in the news recently due to a proposed police force for the schools. Due to public outcry that proposal has been pulled from consideration.
The safety of students is always in front of mind for parents who trust public schools to keep their children secure while being educated. That’s understandable due to the numerous shootings at schools across the country this year alone.
Responses to the proposed police force were swift and generally negative. Many felt a police force would focus on students of color or students from low-income households. One could conclude that that feeling is based on real-world experience. The security of students cuts both ways—they need to be safe from outside attacks and be safe from an overzealous police force.
A Survey Monkey survey was posted on Facebook recently. One question asked if the respondents supported additional school resource officers and/or armed security in our schools; the other question was what level of financial backing they would support, if any. More than 400 responses had logged by the deadline, an overwhelming majority were Keizer residents.
The implied question is whether the public would support security posted at every school (presumably in Keizer) including the elementary schools. Keeping students safe at our elementary schools is as important as for those students at our middle and high schools. Our newer schools were designed to make it impossible to enter the school without an employee buzzing a visitor in through the security door. That system is only as good as the training of the staff to never let their guard down.
A visitor does not have to ring a bell to be allowed into McNary High School. The office is 100 feet and the sightline to the main entrance is not clear. There are a number of entrances to all of our schools and it is not hard to imagine someone on the inside opening a side door.
Added security in all our schools would ease the minds of parents of students of any grade level. Before bloating budgets by adding security forces the school district should ensure that all staff is trained in threat recognition and procedures for allowing outsiders into the school building. Some of the money from the recently voted-passed school bond will go to reconfiguring some schools front offices for greater security.
The fear that a police force in the schools is not a positive move for students of color nor any student that is different cannot be discounted. We must be understanding of the experience of all our students. We can make all students feel safe if we take the time to discover what would make them feel secure besides a locked front entrance.
Instead of a police force let us move toward an inclusive school system that values every student coupled with better oversight about who gets into our schools.