What Actually Makes Schools Safer? It Isn’t Hardening Them

When you think of campus safety, what comes to mind? It may be students being screened through metal detectors when they come onto campus. Or it might be frequent searches of student lockers for restricted paraphernalia.

These may be our impulses when we think about what can make schools safe, but we’re way off base. In a recent article, “To Make Schools Safer, Focus on Community-Not Guns,” the Brookings Institute argues that schools need to focus on making struggling students feel comfortable and well-informed enough to ask for help. The writer, Andre M. Perry, notes, “Emotionally healthy, well-adjusted youth don’t tear through their classrooms armed with weaponry.”

But creating this kind of safe, welcoming school climate isn’t easy. Let’s talk about how to make schools safer by enacting the following strategies for improving students’ well-being and mental health.

Developing Prevention Methods for Bullying and Cyberbullying

Bullying has long been an issue in school districts but has only been exacerbated by how much time students spend online. Around 20% of students report being bullied by their peers, both in-person and online. Districts that allow bullying to continue without plans in place create an unsafe school environment for these students.

What can districts do to stop bullying?

According to, one of the best ways of involving staff and faculty in stopping bullying is training them on how to intervene. Parents should also be involved as much as possible, to encourage their children to deal with their emotional issues effectively. The organization recommends creating a confidential system where students can report how they or their peers are being bullied. In this way, students can hold each other accountable and help create a safe campus for themselves and their peers.

Improving Connections Between Students and Caring Adults

In a recent study of all the school districts in Kentucky, many students reported feeling distant from the adults in their schools. Since they didn’t have relationships with these caring individuals, many didn’t have someone to turn to if any issue did arise in their lives or if they heard disturbing information on campus.

“Much current research on school safety confirms that the greatest enhancers of healthy, safe, and constructive school climates are the relationships developed between the adults in a school and its student body,” writes Barbara Gateskill in “Common Issues Found in Safe School Assessments.”

To make schools safer, districts should focus on developing programs that link students and faculty, helping adults forge connections with students. One of the ways that adults can make students feel welcome and understood on campus is with ScholarChip’s Alternative Behavior Educator (ABE). One of the features of ABE is its flagging capability: if students are having difficulties, the system flags them for immediate intervention from a caring adult.

Focusing on Developing Student Accountability

Besides feeling like they have few connections to faculty and staff, students may also assume that adults don’t care whether they’re in class or not. If they think anyone is concerned about their whereabouts, they may feel less like they need to come to school, which in turn, increases truancy.

How can students feel more accountable for their own attendance?

According to a recent report from Safe and Sound Schools, students have improved social and emotional learning environments when classrooms are equipped with smart card reader technology. This is because they know that they are being accounted for and that caring adults know where they are at all times. ScholarChip makes it simple to install this technology in every classroom.

Adding Support for Students during School Day Transition Periods

Most teachers and staff are able to monitor their classrooms and activities effectively. However, many districts are not as diligent in making sure that students can comfortably move from class to class and enjoy breaks or free periods without harassment.

As Gateskill notes, “One very strong and visible indication of an adult-controlled school is one where its adults can be observed to be actively supervising in all areas where students are located when in transition.”

In addition to assigning more supervision during transitional or break periods, schools can keep better control of campus spaces. Students may roam the halls during their free time, which can create tensions and build an environment of feeling unsupervised.

Another way to make schools safer is by keeping better control of your campus with the One Card and readers. These cards limit access to spaces where students need to be, keeping them out of parts of campus where they shouldn’t be. In turn, these cards and their student-specific schedules keep your campus more closely monitored.

Students feel safe at school if they feel supported by the adults in their lives, welcomed by their peers, and free to discuss their mental health. While we might think that we can make schools safer by adding more sophisticated technology, that only solves part of the problem. A more complex and perhaps less straightforward method involves developing a campus community welcoming of everyone.

ScholarChip offers a solution called Alternative Behavior Educator (ABE). This innovative program enables school administrators and counselors to identify, monitor, and improve student behavior throughout a student’s career, while giving them powerful data-driven reports that quickly flag at-risk students, help monitor and chronicle progress, and help them identify school safety risks before incidents.

To learn how ScholarChip can help make Texas schools safer or get free recommendations, feel free to contact us for a free 1-on-1 consultation today!