On safe ground

School Safety and Security: Lessons in Danger
OECD Observer

On 21 October, 1966, a slag heap in south Wales slid down a mountain and engulfed the village school, killing 144 people, 116 of them children. The 1995 terrorist bombing outside a school near Lyon, France, wounded three children and 11 adults. Fourteen students died in the 1999 gun and bomb assault at Columbine High School in Colorado, and an earthquake in southern Italy in 2002 destroyed a schoolhouse, killing 26 children.

Schools are generally safe places, but terrible events like these, however unlikely, have made many parents, already uneasy about theft, bullying and violence, even more nervous. There are more reassuring stories; for instance, from 9/11, when 9,000 kids from several schools in the vicinity of the burning buildings were evacuated to safety. But how can your local school deal with such events?

Prepare for the worst, is the advice from School Safety and Security: Lessons in Danger. It could mean calling not only on law officers to help make schools safer, but also architects, psychologists, security experts and government authorities. Lessons in Danger examines several different approaches to create a secure learning environment, looking at risk management, crisis planning, building safer infrastructure, and of course, education.

For instance, beyond the usual installing of fences and practising fire drills, children today are being frisked at the school door for possession of knives, firearms or spray paint. Schools are trying out high-tech tools, such as access-control systems to prevent intruders from entering school property, closed-circuit television to monitor inside and outside buildings, and biometric sensors to identify individuals, in order to control access to sensitive areas. Going a step further, one school in the US recently announced that it would implement “smart” cameras that can recognise who does and doesn't belong in the building, and alert staff.

While technology can help, School Safety and Security: Lessons in Danger stresses the need to also simply improve human resources, training not only school teachers and administrators, but taking advantage of the potentially helpful roles of the non-teaching staff, like playground supervisors, janitors, cooks and school nurses. Needs, too, should be taken into account. For instance, ask the kids what they consider to be a safe school. In the UK, a survey of 15,000 pupils produced the Children's Manifesto, asking for such safeguards as swipe cards for the school gates, anti-bullying alarms, first-aid classes and “someone to talk to about our problems.”

ISBN 9264-017399.

©OECD Observer No 246/247, December 2004-January 2005




Economic data

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • How do the largest community of British expats living in Spain feel about Brexit? Britons living in Orihuela Costa, Alicante give their views.
  • Brexit is taking up Europe's energy and focus, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Watch video.
  • OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King discuss the economic merits of a US border adjustment tax and the outlook for US economic growth.
  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa. blogs.worldbank.org
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2017