School Safety Today: Preparing for the Next Wave of School Safety Challenges

School safety is an umbrella with many different aspects underneath it. The evolution of this principle continues, as it has to include everything from natural disasters to violence to a pandemic. Providing insights on challenges to school safety, School Safety Today host Daniel Litwin spoke with the former superintendent of Santa Fe TX ISD, Dr. Leigh Wall. Dr. Wall recently retired after 43 years in public education, including 13 as a superintendent.

“The school is more than a schoolhouse. The safety for the student, staff, and others is different now, reflecting changes in society,” Dr. Wall said.

The fact that all stakeholders have a huge awareness of safety is in itself a shift. “School safety is ultimately more important for all. Before teaching and learning, we have to focus on safety,” Dr. Wall added.
One way in which Texas schools attempted to modernize the issue was with State Bill 11, which passed in response to a 2018 shooting. Sponsors wrote it as a comprehensive safety bill that supported funding and initiatives relating to school safety.

Speaking about SB 11, Dr. Wall said, “The key is the emergency operation plan requirement for all types, and that those plans must be dynamic. Auditing, as well as threat assessment teams, are part of it, too. It has interconnected layers to support students, teachers, staff, and the community.”

What SB 11 doesn’t precisely address is COVID-19. “Wellness is part of safety, and the pandemic put this into its scope. There are many new concerns, and schools need to have the right tools to deal with it because we have to address basic safety needs before learning,” Dr. Wall noted.

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