Recently I was in Missouri teaching the course The Principals of School Safety. I was getting ready to head to class and stopped in the hotel lobby to grab a quick breakfast. The news was on and a reporter was describing how a local school district was installing bullet proof chairs to make their schools safe.
I grabbed a seat and watched as the reporter even demonstrated how to use a chair as a shield by turning it around and hiding behind it. She then took off the chair covering and put it on like a bullet proof vest.
Here’s what was wrong with the news story…and it has nothing to do with the bullet proof chairs. Well, a little bit to do with the chairs. It’s really what the reporter said, how she said it, and the message conveyed behind her words.
She said, “The schools will receive bullet proof chairs to make their schools safe.”
Like so many people, the reporter believes that an event will make our schools safe. In this case, installing bullet proof chairs. “If we just had bullet proof chairs we will be safe.” Unfortunately, it’s not true but the belief is alive and kicking in our schools, police departments, and communities. Instead of bullet proof chairs, you could substitute adding SRO’s, metal detectors, crisis plans, live shooter drills, armed teachers, armed guards, and so on. “If we just had…”
These are events. Having a safer school is a process and not an event.
When I graduated from boot camp and became a Marine—that was an event. When I graduated from the police academy and became a certified police officer—that was an event. Getting married—event. First child born—event (I’m proud to say that I’ve celebrated that event with my wife eight times).
On the other side–
Becoming a terrific leader—process. Living a happy life—process. Being physically fit—process. Being a great husband and father—process. Having a safer school—process.
See the difference?
We can’t think that just one thing will make our schools safe. Unfortunately, it’s not how it works and that kind of mindset in the end will only make us less safe! A process is something that we have to continue to tweak, evaluate, and implement on a daily basis—and even sometimes when we don’t want to. Deciding to change is an event—maintaining that change is a process and solid processes are the answer to a safer school!
For the record, there is no space that we can make completely safe—only safer. And as far as bullet proof chairs go, they might help or hurt a school. It’s hard to say. Just like people, each school is unique and when it comes to saving lives, a cookie cutter approach should not be used. The only way to know for sure would be to individually assess each school and determine the overall value of the security measure—in that particular school at that particular time to make it safer.
After all, it’s a process…
What do you think?