Delineated Roles for School Safety Managers: Encouraging More Focused Responsibilities
School safety managers require specialized security and emergency management knowledge. Adding unrelated responsibilities can dilute their expertise and compromise the effectiveness of safety measures.
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The safety and security of students and staff within educational institutions, particularly within K-12 schools, have become a paramount concern in recent years. In response, the role of school safety management has gained prominence as staff are tasked with creating and maintaining a safe environment conducive to learning.
Finding people with specialized backgrounds, knowledge, training, and experience in school safety dramatically improves the overall safety process. However, there is an ongoing debate about whether those managing school safety should be burdened with additional responsibilities such as discipline, truancy, athletics, transportation, etc.
Because of the importance of delineated roles for school safety managers, these roles should focus solely on their core school safety responsibilities.
5 Essential Responsibilities of School Safety Managers
The role of a school safety manager is multifaceted, involving the development, implementation, and oversight of safety protocols to protect students, staff, and school property. Core responsibilities encompass various aspects, such as:
- Emergency Preparedness: School safety managers are crucial in preparing schools for emergencies such as natural disasters, intruders, or medical crises. They establish emergency response plans, conduct drills, and ensure the school community is well-equipped to handle unforeseen situations.
- Crisis Management: In the unfortunate event of a crisis, school safety managers coordinate with law enforcement, first responders, and other relevant agencies to ensure a prompt and effective response. Their clear focus on crisis management ensures a timely and organized response.
- Security Infrastructure: School safety managers are responsible for assessing and enhancing the physical security infrastructure of the school, which includes surveillance systems, access controls, and perimeter security measures.
- Safety Training: School safety managers organize and oversee training sessions for staff and students on safety procedures, including evacuation plans, lockdown protocols, and first aid techniques.
- Risk Assessment: Regularly evaluating potential security risks and vulnerabilities allows school safety managers to address any weaknesses and minimize the likelihood of incidents proactively.
Managing School Safety Grants Is a Significant Resource Commitment
While the announcement of $1 billion in school safety funds suggests significant support for enhancements, schools must rely on their respective states to facilitate grant processes, many of which are still not accessible. When funding sources are made available, schools must still have the resources to research, apply, and manage the grants. Ten months after the Uvalde shooting, and nine months after the federal law passed, only 38 of the nation’s 13,000 public school districts have seen a cent from those funds (Lieberman, 2023). School safety managers may be the most likely and appropriate to pursue and manage these grants; however, this role becomes a significant commitment, especially when delegated other responsibilities.
A grant manager is tasked with meticulously planning, allocating, and overseeing financial resources to implement security enhancements such as infrastructure improvements, training programs, and technological solutions. Collaborating closely with school administrators, law enforcement agencies, and relevant stakeholders, the manager must assess the specific safety needs of the school, devise a strategic roadmap for implementation, monitor progress, and evaluate the impact of the grant-funded initiatives. Maintaining accurate documentation, adhering to regulatory guidelines, and fostering transparent communication with all parties involved are vital components of successfully managing a school safety grant.
3 Reasons Schools Are Compelled to Add Responsibilities to School Safety Managers
There are often three circumstances compelling schools to give added responsibilities to school safety managers, including:
One of the primary reasons schools are inclined to add responsibilities to school leaders is convenience. By centralizing specific tasks under the purview of these leaders, schools can streamline operations and reduce administrative overhead.
2. Adaptation to Staffing Challenges
The need for more qualified personnel, such as specialized administrators or counselors, can compel schools to delegate additional responsibilities to existing leaders. A 2022 study conducted by the company EAB surveyed 141 Superintendents from 32 states, finding that almost half were considering or actively planning to leave their role within the next 2-3 years (Fung, 2022).
- Lack of Specialists: Schools might need more specialized professionals, such as counselors or safety directors. In such cases, school leaders may need to step in to address these gaps.
- Immediate Needs: When faced with urgent needs like disciplinary issues or truancy, school leaders can step in promptly, avoiding delays that could negatively impact the school community.
- Flexibility: School leaders can adapt and assume responsibilities as needed in the face of fluctuating student populations or evolving requirements.
3. Budget Constraints: Maximizing Resources
In an era of limited resources, budget constraints play a significant role in adding responsibilities to school leaders. By leveraging their existing roles, schools can maximize the utilization of available resources:
- Reduced Hiring Costs: Hiring specialized personnel for every responsibility can strain budgets. Schools can save on recruitment and training costs by assigning multiple tasks to school leaders.
- Resource Allocation: Limited budgets may necessitate reallocating funds from various departments. Having leaders assume additional roles can help balance resource distribution.
- Economies of Scale: When one leader manages multiple areas, economies of scale can be achieved, optimizing resource allocation and promoting cost-efficiency.
Hazards of Supplementary Responsibilities
Assigning school safety managers additional responsibilities can harm their ability to ensure a safe learning environment. Here are some reasons these tasks should remain separate:
- Expertise Dilution: School safety managers require specialized security and emergency management knowledge. Adding unrelated responsibilities can dilute their expertise and compromise the effectiveness of safety measures.
- Time Allocation: Juggling various responsibilities can lead to divided attention. School safety demands constant vigilance and quick decision-making, which additional duties might hinder.
- Conflicts of Interest: Disciplinary actions and truancy issues involve different skills and considerations. Combining these with safety roles may create conflicts of interest, potentially jeopardizing fair and unbiased decision-making.
- Legal Implications: Missteps in safety-related matters could have serious legal ramifications. Focusing solely on safety helps mitigate legal risks and ensures compliance with relevant regulations.
Balancing Act: Considerations and Cautions
While the reasons mentioned above may provide short-term benefits to adding responsibilities to school safety managers, there are important considerations to keep in mind:
- Overburdened Leaders: Assigning too many responsibilities to school leaders can lead to burnout, impacting their ability to perform effectively in any capacity.
- Expertise Diversification: Juggling diverse responsibilities can dilute leaders’ expertise, potentially affecting the quality of outcomes.
- Resource Reallocation: The savings achieved through delegation should maintain the quality of education and the safety of students and staff.
It is important to acknowledge that the suggestion of a delineated role for many schools is unfortunately not practical, and appreciating these circumstances, schools should pursue available resources to help lighten the load and ensure a comprehensive approach. Many states have created school safety centers that focus on providing resources and technical support to their schools. Federal programs such as the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Center (REMS) and the National School Safety Center also provide training, technical assistance, and resources at no cost to schools. There are also independent initiatives that focus on providing school safety support, such as Safe and Sound Schools, Sandy Hook Promise, and the I Love You Guys Foundations, to name a few. Greenlights Grant Initiative, a non-profit Camila and Matthew McConaughey started, recently announced free services to help schools attain grant funding.
Additionally, forming relationships and networking with those in similar safety management positions can be advantageous. Establishing ongoing communications with your school safety manager colleagues is highly advantageous. Networking with others in similar roles can help identify additional resources and best practices, and create a support system during critical incidents.
Adding responsibilities to school leaders offers advantages such as convenience, cost savings, and adaptability to staffing challenges. However, striking the right balance is crucial. School administrators must carefully assess the potential drawbacks and implications of overburdening leaders. Delineating their responsibilities to focus on safety-related tasks solely is essential for maintaining the integrity and effectiveness of their role. By allowing these professionals to concentrate on their core functions of emergency preparedness, security infrastructure, crisis management, safety training, and risk assessment, educational institutions can ensure that safety remains a top priority.
In pursuing a conducive learning environment, it is imperative to recognize the significance of specialized roles and the benefits they offer to the entire school community. The definitive goal is to ensure that students receive a well-rounded education in a safe environment, and this goal should guide decisions about the delegation of responsibilities to school leaders.
Fung, K. (2022, February 17) Newsweek: https://www.newsweek.com/half-superintendents-want-quit- amid- political-battle-over-schools-1679874
Lieberman, M. (2023, July 28) Education Week: https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/congress- passed-1b-for-school-safety-last-year-only-38-districts-have-gotten-money/2023/03
Joey Melvin is director of the Center for Safe Schools and prior Region 3 director for the National Association of School Resource Officers. He has spent over 20 years in law enforcement and was formerly Deputy Director of Delaware’s Comprehensive School Safety Plan.
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