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Editor's Note (The View From Here)

Are We Safe Yet?

This month’s focus is on campus safety and security — a topic that deserves as much coverage as we can provide. As parents we are looking for a safe environment for our sons and daughters. As administrators we are all looking to provide that type of environment. But, the job is not as easy as it should be and is surprisingly fraught with controversy. Case in point… I watched a news story recently about the joint committee at the Arizona state legislature approving funding ($12 million from the general fund for the 2014-15 school year) for nearly 120 school resource officers on K–12 campuses across the state. Responses to the legislature’s renewed focus on school safety ranged from “Aren’t there more important things we should be spending the funds on?” to “Another hour of my workweek wasted with the ineffective use of my tax dollars.”

Another example is how we have dealt with cyberbullies who use the Internet to anonymously attack their victims. The result of cyberbullying incidents has been teen suicide, as well as lawsuits challenging a school’s response to peer harassment. The difficulty is balancing the punishment for crimes committed and free speech. Last week New York State’s highest courts ruled that the 2010 Albany County law prohibiting cyberbullying is overly broad and violates the First Amendment right to free speech.

Creating a safe and secure environment is not an easy task, but employing the “ostrich method” — putting our heads in the sand and hoping it doesn’t happen on our campus — is irresponsible. Crime is happening in our schools and on our campuses. In 2011, there were 30,400 criminal incidents on campus that were reported to police and security agencies at public and private two- and four-year postsecondary institutions; 54,600 arrests for illegal weapons possession and drug and liquor law violations; 19,500 burglaries, 2,200 aggravated assaults and 15 murders. In K–12 schools there were 25 homicides and six suicides; 1,364,900 nonfatal victimizations at school; seven percent of students in grades 9–12 reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property; and 85 percent of public schools recorded that one or more crime incidents had taken place at school.

Nothing is black or white. There are pros and cons to every situation and every response. But we can’t ignore the facts. You may say that a student is more likely to be struck by lightning… until it happens on your campus or to your child.

This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of College Planning & Management.

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