Are Private Schools Safe?

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When it comes to choosing a school for your child, most parents are concerned about not just the level of education, but also the safety of the school. If you’ve paid attention to the media lately, it seems that there are a lot of tragedies happening at our schools, both public schools and private. It can often feel like no school is truly safe. What do parents need to know, and are private schools really safer than public schools?

Every school in the world will encounter some forms of negative behavior. But there are a few instances that have been discussed nationally when it comes to schools and the perceived safety of students.

School Safety in the News

Chances are, you’ve seen the various reports that have uncovered sexual abuse scandals at a number of private schools around the country, with a focus on boarding schools in New England. Choate Rosemary Hall has been one of the most recent schools to hit the airwaves with allegations of misconduct. It’s important to note, however, that with the exception of a few cases, most of the scandals uncovered in the past few years have dealt with instances that dated back decades. Many of the schools that are in the news are dealing with situations that involve former employees who have since retired or even passed away. While this fact doesn’t make it easier for the victims of past instances, this does mean that parents today can feel more confident that this type of scandal isn’t prevalent now; schools are diligent in making sure that the faculty at today’s schools are well-screened and upstanding citizens.

Sex scandals are one of the safety concerns to frequent the news stations lately, with school shootings sharing the spotlight. With two school shootings being reported so far in 2017, the most recent taking place on April 10 in San Bernardino, CA, guns are a hot topic around the nation. The vast majority of shootings in the past decade have taken place at public schools and colleges, but private schools are still susceptible.

Many schools have instituted stricter rules and regulations for faculty and students overall, not just pertaining to guns. So, how do schools truly keep their students safe? Check out these best practices in school safety.

School Background Checks

Private schools today have implemented a number of checks and balances to ensure that faculty are upstanding citizens. Schools are known for doing extensive background checks on their employees, and in today’s world, most schools are diligent about following up on even the most mundane tips in an effort to ensure that students are safe. That doesn’t mean that no one will ever slip through the cracks, but there are more safety precautions and background checks in place today than in years past. This also goes for drug testing, with many schools being required by their states to conduct random tests, and some private schools opting to test independently.

Controlled & Monitored Campus Security Systems

While some private schools are situated on hundred-acre campuses with thousands of potential entry points, others are gated communities with limited access available to outsiders. From live video feeds throughout campus and security guards who patrol the acres of land to monitored entrances with locked gates, many private schools offer some of the most secure school environments around.

Most private schools also develop strong relationships with local law enforcement, ensuring that officers are familiar with the school and are actually a presence on campus. Some private schools are even known for inviting local officers in for meals and special events as guests, further developing relationships and making it known that officers of the law are regular visitors.

Many schools have implemented sophisticated security systems, ranging from security cameras and motion sensored lights to doors that can be locked with a single swipe of a master key fob or with a few keystrokes on a computer. Students and faculty alike may be issued photo ID cards that are activated and deactivated via a computer or app, meaning that an individual’s access to buildings and rooms can be limited within seconds should there be an issue.

Emergency Communication Systems

Gone are the days of just a loudspeaker in the halls. Today's private schools employ sophisticated communication systems that range from high tech to the most primitive modes of communication. Apps allow students and faculty to respond to a push message, noting if they are safe and where they are located if necessary, ensuring that emergency crews know where the danger is and where to focus their attention first. Those same apps can communicate with families off campus, allowing the school to share pertinent information, including if access to campus is allowed and where to go to find updated information online and off site safe areas where students will be taken once evacuated from campus. 

Licensed Professionals 

Whether these professionals are on-staff or on-call, schools have a number of resources available to students and faculty including police and fire departments, EMTs, plumbers, engineers, electricians, nurses, doctors, counselors, and more. These people can assist with all sorts of emergency situations.

Emergency Drills

Emergency drills are common at schools, allowing students and faculty to experience the drama of an emergency and practice how to react. School officials can practice enabling automatically locking external doors and classroom teachers can practice using manual internal locking systems on classroom doors that let them secure the door and block viewable access to the classroom in seconds. Friend and Foe situations can be carried out, during which colored cards and specific verbal codes can be used to ensure that friends are attempting to access the room. And all this happens after faculty undergoes extensive training on how to respond to emergency situations. 

Are private schools safe? Are private schools safer than public schools? Well, while no school is 100 percent guaranteed to never have an issue, many private schools are working diligently to provide the safest learning and living environments around.