Reading, Writing and Arithmetic? Let’s Add a 4th ‘R’ to School Curricula: Relating

Schools must teach relationship skills so that campus safety and security programs can be fully optimized.

As a journalist who has been covering school, university and hospital public safety for a decade now, I’m all too familiar with some of the terrible tragedies campus police, security officers, administrators, teachers and staff must face. Whether those situations involve bullying, the threat of an active shooter incident, hazing, gangs, sexual assault, bomb threats or people acting out in some other way, campus protection professionals have their hands full.

The good news is that many of the security measures (drills and training) and equipment (video surveillance and emergency notification) recently implemented by K-12 campuses may be contributing to a reduction of violence on campus. According to a survey just released by the federal government, the percentage of schools that reported at least one violent incident fell from 74 percent in 2009-2010 to 65 percent last year.

I’m extremely pleased to see the decrease and the positive effect security improvements may have had on campus climates. That being said, the overall rate of violence at school facilities and in our society in general is still too high. 

Although I’m convinced that the solutions Campus Safety magazine covers to address safety and security issues are very effective, they can only do so much. K-12 schools – and even pre-K schools – must do much more to foster positive behavior early on in a child’s life before bad habits regress into violence and crime, be it at school, in college or down the road when they are admitted as an adult to a hospital ER as a patient with behavioral health issues.

This means educators must expand their concept of education to include the whole student, not just their intellect.

Currently, the three Rs -reading, writing and arithmetic – are considered the foundations of most American educational programs. These topics are extremely important, no doubt, but they only focus on a child’s intellectual development. Very few schools or universities provide enough education on what should be the fourth “R” of a student’s education: relating to others… and to themselves.

Instruction on having healthy relationships and processing uncomfortable or “ugly” emotions like anger must be provided to students throughout their academic careers. It should be age-appropriate and include strong partnerships with parents, campus protection professionals, counselors and social services. These classes should be part of students’ regular curriculum, not just one hour of training during a pep rally or orientation at the beginning of the school year.

Combining this approach with faculty and student safety training, security technology, appropriate police and security officer staffing levels, and the enforcement of meaningful consequences for unacceptable behavior will do much more to address school and university security challenges.

Others in our communities will most likely also experience the positive effects of this expanded educational mission. Hospitals, for example, which have experienced a 40 percent increase in violent crime since 2012, could see a decline in workplace violence incidents.  Schools might experience the disruption of what some call the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Our nation’s educational system does a fairly good job of developing students intellectually. Unfortunately, for the most part, we do a less-than-stellar job with kids who have poorly developed social and emotional skills, and these are the children who very often exhibit behavior that is problematic for schools, law enforcement and society as a whole in the long run. Expanding schools’ educational mission to include student emotional development and relationship skills will better support our campus security efforts and technology, not to mention make our children healthier.

Photo: Washington Monthly

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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