Why is school safety so important?

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Perhaps more than ever school safety is important both for children and teachers. Not to mention for parents’ peace of mind.

When a child feels safe and comfortable, they are able to learn and engage meaningfully in their environment. If a child feels unsafe or uncomfortable, this can inhibit mental growth and the ability to socialize.

Their ability to function in school can be impaired by their parents’ feelings on the matter, too. A child can tell when their parent isn’t comfortable and respond accordingly.

School Safety as a community

During a typical year, children will spend a huge amount of time at their school. Therefore one of the biggest factors in a child’s development will be the school community. In order to maximise a child’s potential, this needs to be one where they feel safe and comfortable.

A study published in 1997, looked at the ways in which a student’s sense of community at school interconnected with potential problem behaviours. In this case, a community is defined as “an environment characterized by caring and supportive interpersonal relationships, opportunities to participate in school activities, and decision making, and shared norms, goals, and values.”

The study demonstrated that children who feel unsafe at school are unlikely to achieve their academic best, and that those attending schools which promoted social bonding would exhibit less problem behaviour.

The Reality of School Safety

It can be difficult to talk about the potential violent realities of schools. However, one only has to look at near-daily school shootings in the United States to understand how important that conversation really is.

Students not only need to feel safe from violence, though. There are a myriad of situations that can lead to students of all ages feeling vulnerable.

These include:

      • Bullying (both online and physical)
      • Theft
      • Lack of classroom discipline
      • Sexual assault
      • Victimisation

Online School Safety

The ubiquity of digital media has encouraged teachers to bring these elements to the classroom. This increases the need to understand and promote online safety among children.

Children are incredibly vulnerable to the dangers of both online harassment (cyberbullying) by their peers and being preyed upon by adults. Children who are exposed to bullying and harassment are at a far greater risk of suicidal behaviours. For this reason, imparting safe ways of using technology to children is a vital way to protect their mental health.

In 2020, online safety is just as important a lesson for children as physical safety.

The Worry of COVID-19

An online survey published in August by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) reviewed responses from 1,333 parents and guardians. The questions were largely regarding the reopening of schools.
Unsurprisingly, many parents were clearly worried about their children’s health while attending school.

At the time there were many genuine concerns from parents about what ‘going back to school’ might look like. Some parents were so sceptical on the benefits of reopening schools that 6.2% said they would not be sending their children back to school.

Learning from Home

Learning from home is an option, but not for all schoolchildren. Worryingly, 66.6% of respondents with primary school-aged children, and just under half of parents with secondary school children reported their children spent “two hours or less” a day on school work.

While this could change with a regimented home school environment, it does indicate that not all students are suited for homeschooling.

Additionally, some parents’ lives, particularly women and mothers, will be significantly impacted if they can’t rely on a school’s safety. In the CSO report, 16.9% of female respondents with primary school-aged children stated they would have to “give up work”. This can be looked at in comparison to the 3.9% of male respondents with similarly aged children who said likewise.

Returning to School – Safety Concerns

At the time, 32% of respondents stated that they would be ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ concerned “about their child’s school providing a safe environment in the context of COVID-19”. There were legitimate fears of community transmissions due to increased exposure.

The Epidemiology of COVID-19 in Ireland issues daily reports of the thousands of teachers and students who have been tested. Since schools and creches have reopened numbers have steadily increased in children. Despite this, there are fewer hospitalisations.

Covid Gender Split

The results also indicate a significant gender split in the number of confirmed cases among females than males. Generally speaking, COVID appears to adversely affect females more than male children.

School Safety Takeaway

In this time of global health pandemic, COVID risk worries naturally at the forefront of people’s minds. Personal hygiene, mask-wearing, and other precautions are necessary and need to be adhered to strictly.

However, it’s important not to forget the very real childhood problems that children go through regardless of whether or not there’s a pandemic. Even without cyberbullying, children are still vulnerable to harassment. It’s important to stay as vigilant as possible in all circumstances to ensure children feel safe and are able to grow.

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