School safety is a function of:
A) The demographics and crime rates of the surrounding neighborhood
B) The education and lifestyle of the parents
C) The academic achievement of the students
No, really, smart people tell us so:
School safety depends far less on the poverty and crime surrounding the campus than on the academic achievement of its students and their relationships with adults in the building, according to a new study of Chicago public schools.
The report, released Tuesday by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago, finds that while schools in high-poverty, high-crime neighborhoods tend to be less safe than other schools, students’ level of academic achievement actually plays a bigger role in school safety than a school’s neighborhood. Furthermore, even in high-poverty, high-crime neighborhoods, the quality of relationships among adults and students at a school can turn one school into a safe haven while another languishes as a center of violence.
Of course, anyone with half a brain will tell you that academic achievement is inextricably linked with poverty, local crime, etc. So I’m inclined to think of this all in terms of systemic failure rather than some sort of X-causes-Y phenomenon. The “root cause” of school-wide (and even neighborhood-wide) suckage — safety, academics, attitudes towards authority, graduation and literacy rates, etc. — if some root cause there be, is actually likely to be extremely hard to identify because it’s probably something missing rather than something present.
Still, it’s an interesting read. I was especially caught by this sentence:
After a trio of 7th graders “borrowed” a parent’s car for a joyride over the weekend, Ms. Hightower was able to retrieve the keys quietly and have the students meet with a community police officer—without threatening them with an official arrest.
This to me suggests that you not only need an involved, attentive faculty and administration, but it helps if you have a dollop of common sense, too. Children are not going to feel safe if they’re living in a thoughtless zero-tolerance prison system.