Traditionally, the words ‘safe space’ invoked images of home, school, church, or any place where you felt a sense of security and contentment. Currently, the term refers to sites where students retreat and lament their homework. However, the greater issues concerning the concept of the safe space is our schools. Educational institutions were once locations where you spent a substantial part of your day learning about a variety of subjects, life, and maturing. Yet, today hearing the word ‘school’ stirs new levels of tension and fear, and not those inspired by homework assignments.
Do you recall the days of innocence where you dreaded going to school because you did not like a subject, homework, tests, or gym class? Today, school inspires different types of thoughts and feelings that are full of unease. If you are an educator, a student, or parent then you know these feelings too well. It goes something like this: Each time breaking news flashes on your phone or television with a mention of the word school, stress and anxiety come over you like an intense flood. Every thought and emotion rushes through you in ways you cannot describe before you hear the details. Suddenly, the fight feeling takes over and an overwhelming tension brings on panic. Even though it may not have happened at your school, your mind begins to race with a case of the “what ifs.”
Classroom conversations are troubling after these violent events. When students discuss their worries and concerns regarding school safety, as an educator, you cannot help but develop an overwhelming feeling of protectiveness. No student, educator, or parent should be alarmed about attending school. Classrooms should be protected spaces. Students and faculty should be allowed to freely enter this room and do their jobs in a productive manner without having distress about what may happen that day.
Regardless of politics, we all need to be able to agree that it is essential schools be safe. We all should be able to come to an agreement that teachers must be provided with the necessary training to not only feel safe in their classrooms, but to protect their students. No one should be apprehensive about going to school because they fear what could happen that day. No one should be asking if “today is the day?” No one should have to run through potential plans for escape and safety in their minds on a regular basis due to the potential of violence.
This has become the new normal for schools, students, parents and educators. The disease of “what if” is now a regular feeling. Something needs to be done about this. When students come to class asking questions about their safety and what you as an educator are going to do to protect them, then you know that it is time for change. When students express fear for their safety and the plans to ensure that their days are carefree, then you know not enough is being done. The expectation of safety in a school is something that must be guaranteed. The pressure of success, education, and social pressures are the normal degrees of stress for all students and the only type of stress they should be worrying about. Instead, today, students have to constantly evaluate their safety and what to do in the event of an active-shooter on their campus.
Remember when fire drills were the only type of preparation you had to be concerned about at school? Just think about that. Now students must prepare for the deadliest of attacks. What are we doing about it?
Parents, are you questioning if your faculty and staff are trained appropriately to react and protect? Do you know the procedures? Have you seen it? Are faculty confident in their ability to react? This is not a criticism, but an awareness check. Parents: beware of the hidden threats that exist. What are your school’s policies regarding student behavior? Is there one? Do you know if your school is prepared to handle these situations?
Faculty are more than just educators while in a classroom. They instruct, protect, care for and want the best for their students. As an educator you are not only teaching but guarding and are responsible for your students. Teachers know this and want to keep their students safe. Educators require more training and security to do their jobs to the best of their ability.
Recently, I saw a segment on bulletproof backpacks. It’s a great idea, but there is something scary about that. The mere fact that we must think about making a bulletproof backpack so that a student can go to school and feel safe and so parents feel safe is troubling. Haven’t we had enough of this? We need to reclaim our schools and make schools safe again.
Lauren E. Forcucci is an educator, writer, and proud American. She is the daughter of an immigrant, the granddaughter of a veteran, and a friend and supporter of active-duty military, veterans, and police. She’s also a proud Whiskey Patriot.