SAFER SCHOOLS NEWS-VOL. 108
A Professional Educator’s Perspective
Are our children safe at school? Over the past fifty years school districts have searched for ways to create a cost efficient, secure, and positive learning environment to improve student achievement. How can we, as educators, create a safer and more organized environment in which children can learn?
We cannot assume that our schools and school children are out of harm’s way. A recent example is the terrorist takeover of a school in Russia. Such an event begs the question, “Are our children safe at any school?” Other questions that need to be asked would include:
- If schools are safer and more organized will that directly affect a child’s ability to learn?
- Will helping students to be better organized help them learn more effectively?
These issues have given school designers and administrators a totally new definition of the term “safe schools.” School shootings in Columbine and Jonesboro have brought national attention to the safety of students in U.S. public schools and a new movement is emerging, that of “Lockerless Schools.”
There is a strong belief that a problem exists within our school that must be addressed concerning school safety and student organization. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs when the physiological needs of students are met, the need for safety will emerge. Safety and security ranks above all other needs. As adults, we often have little awareness of our security needs, except in times of emergency or periods of disorganization in the social structure. Students, on the other hand, often display the signs of insecurity and the need to be safe. If we are going to impact student learning, the adults must therefore establish a safer environment for our students. There must be genuine effort by educators to place more emphasis on safety and security in our schools. A significant number of administrators and educators believe that student achievement is directly tied to a safe and orderly environment. According to the “Hawthorne Effect” used by many Fortune 500 businesses across the world, productivity and quality will not change in the workplace until a change in the environment occurs. If we are serious about creating safer environments for our students and educators we should apply this principle in our schools to help student achievement. Removing lockers has produced a positive impact on the learning environment and has made our campus a safer place to learn.
The first observable benefit of removing lockers, was that students were forced to become better organized. With better organizational skills, safety students began to feel and act safer. This was the most significant benefit of removing the lockers.
In order for locker removal to work, there were some things that had to be done as a foundation. First, the school had to be able to get all stakeholders to embrace the change with a positive attitude. Next, there was a need to coordinate this change with the discipline plan and to re-align curriculum along with the delivery of instruction because students were no longer carrying books. Teachers were trained and made aware of the pit falls in which they could find themselves. Then teachers had to be sold on and vested in the program as they are a key to the success of the policy. Finally, parents were informed and educated about the changes and how their role at home would improve campus safety, impact academics, and help their children improve organizational skills.
To get started on your own lockerless program, first ask, “Why do we have lockers?” The first response is likely to be, “Because we have always had lockers.” This is of course a poor reason for doing anything. Ask yourself these questions:
- Where do students get the best education in our country today?
- What educational setting is the safest and most productive?
The answers to both are at the elementary level and the post secondary level (University or College). A primary common denominator with both levels is that they do not typically have lockers. The research and information that has been gathered over the past eight years shows without doubt that removing lockers will produce a greater impact on safety, organization and learning than any other policy that can be implemented.
Data was collected from 25 school districts in the state of Texas. These districts range from enrollments of 200 students to enrollments of 2200 students. Discipline referrals and tardiness to class have dropped by approximately 90%. Surveys and interviews indicate that customer satisfaction is very high with students and parents. All schools, regardless of size, experienced similar reductions in referrals and tardiness with a similar high degree of customer satisfaction. Hopefully, his information will show other schools that this is an effective way to impact campus safety and improve academic achievement through better organization.
This article is written by Todd Nix, a professional educator and member of the Keys Multi-Disciplanary Team. The ideas expressed and the data provided come from his years of pioneering efforts in Texas school systems to provide a safe and secure learning environment for students and staff through removing existing lockers and designing new facilities without lockers. If your school is interested in more information about how this program can impact your learning environment, contact Mr. Nix or the Directors at Keys to Safer Schools.com.
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