“There is no silver bullet when it comes to protecting Schools. Keeping students safe is the responsibility of the entire community” (Justine Brown: Emergency Management.
So as we see and hear of the rise in violence at schools not only in the U.S.A., but also in our own public schools, mainly in the Western Cape, with shootings and stabbings of both pupils and staff, we need to be asking ourselves how safe are our schools?
The answer to the above problem is however rather involved and multifaceted in that there are a number of factors that we need to bear in mind when we ask such a wide ranging question. These factors include aspects such as:-
- The socio – economic status of the pupils/parents attending the school.
- The physical position of the school in its specific neighbourhood.
- The facilities and layout of the plant.
- The funding the school has available to address specific security needs.
- The planning and program the school has in place to deal with threats.
The list is by no means complete, but is just an indication of how complex the topic is. The Occupational Health and Safety Act (complied mainly for Industry) has assisted to a large degree in alerting schools as to general safety standards, but schools vary greatly, and they all have unique needs, threats and resources.
At Marist Brothers Linmeyer we have engaged in technology to assist us with security by placing CCTV cameras in a number of identified strategic areas on the campus – this is able to assist us with, and is effective in school safety investigations. It can even be a deterrent to criminal behaviour. However, we should not be complacent or rely on this system alone for our safety – we need staff, pupils and parents to remain vigilant. The presence of security cameras should not be creating an illusion to make people feel safer – it’s what the people DO that makes them feel safer.
What else are we as a school doing?
- Physical 24/7 Security on all entrances/exits of schools as well as CCTV surveillance and regular patrols.
- Armed response, Alarms, secured areas, and security gates.
This all needs to be done as tastefully and unobtrusively as possible while at the same time being effective –we do not want our School to look like a high security prison.
It is in our people – staff, pupils and parents though, that we can make the biggest impact on our own and everyone else’s security. We therefore strongly urge EVERYONE to be practising the following guidelines, if they are not doing so already.
- Be vigilant – keep your eye and ears open for yourself and those around you.
- Engage and communicate with those around you – greet, acknowledge them, ask if you can be of assistance.
- Know who/where you can go to/for assistance.
- Become familiar with your school environment and its rules.
- Report on matters that are not normal/suspicious.
- Be compassionate – take an interest in the welfare, and safety of those around you.
- Look after your belongings and take them home with you – look out for other’s belongings as well – hand them in!
From the school’s side, we will continue to train and provide First Aid courses for our staff to assist pupils in need. Emergency evacuation and fire drills are and will continue to be practiced at least twice a year, firefighting and training will be undertaken by our Support staff every year and we will continue to submit to two external OHS audits every year to ensure maximum safety compliancy for all who teach, are taught and visit the campus.
There is always more that can be done, and we will keep you posted as new developments come to light, in the meantime: Be Aware, Practise Safety, Consider others and Stay Safe.
Mr Burton Saunders
Principal of Operations