Are District Schools safe enough?

school safe
A barbed wire fence. Image:

As the seventh-graders returned to their classrooms for the first time since their Social Studies teacher was robbed by two men in the middle of a class, parents probably took a second look at the doors and fences that are supposed to keep their kids safe. The incident, which occurred at Francisco de Paula Santander, a community school located in the municipality of Galapa, brought the topic of security to the forefront and if parents hadn’t thought much about school security before then, they are certainly thinking about it now.

This incident and others like it have exposed security gaps and widely inefficient safety procedures in our public school systems across the city, highlighting a lack of district efforts to develop stronger emergency response plans to cover security. To fill the void, Mayor Alejandro Char presented a comprehensive plan to make District Schools safer and to benefit a hundred thousand or so students in the District. The initiative has two components:

1. El Plan Padrino (Support Plan)
According to the police commandant, this plan consists of the allocation of officers to the forty-one educational establishments with the highest violence index within the institution and in the community in which they are located. Police officers will design and offer different types of prevention programs, promote a healthy lifestyle, as well as ensure safety in the schools.

2. Increased Private Security
Up to sixty public schools in Barranquilla are going to have improved physical security with the presence of private security officers. Monitoring will be managed by the firm, Seguridad Superior (Superior Security), with a contract value of $ 3,200 million.

Mayor Alejandro Char and the District Education Secretary, Karen Abudinen, believe that this intervention plan will ensure students’ safety, reduce the problem of bullying, plus minimize consumption of drugs and the carrying of weapons. However, a safer city should be shaped by educating kids to become leaders of peace, and to respect life. The two figureheads made a call to the educational community to work in coordination with the authorities for coexistence in schools. In Karen’s words: “There is no point in getting 1,000 police officers and security cameras if we don’t do our part to get ahead, seeking peace in neighborhoods, and creating social connections.”

Heightened security measures, including increased physical security may ease the growing public anxiety over acts of violence in district schools, and reduce the number of students avoiding areas in school out of fear for their safety.

As public school systems continue to fear crime and violence, increased security is unavoidable. But there’s a need for balance between advantages and disadvantages. And it can be done through preventative measures, outside of safety devices. Measures should include peer mediation, parental involvement, and more access to counselors. After all, the responsibility for maintaining order and discipline in the classroom belongs to the teachers and shouldn’t be shifted into the hands of law enforcement officials.

Hopefully, we can learn to keep the essence of the campus life where teachers, parents, and students come and go throughout the day.