When leaders Birmingham Public Schools think about keeping students and teachers safe in light of the Sandy Hook shooting, it's about more than just security cameras, locked doors and intercom systems.
It's about fostering a culture of respect among students, ensuring that everyone feels safe in the classroom.
That's the third — and some might say most important — part of a new set of school safety recommendations formally adopted by the Birmingham Board of Education Tuesday night.
"At the end of the day, it has to be our collective commitment to make sure we have good culture in our schools, and good behavior in our schools," Superintendent Daniel Nerad said Tuesday. "That has to be our community commitment."
Security protocols part of the plan, but it's not enough
The safety recommendations are part of a new Safe Schools report first presented to the school board on Feb. 5, and were crafted by district officials after the elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT.
The plans include a comprehensive policy review as well as several new and updated security protocols for Birmingham schools. The doors are now locked during the day, schools will lead more lockdown drills every year and starting in May, every school will be equipped with a "visitor notification system" (VNS), replacing the unarmed security guards that have been in the schools since January.
Read more at
However, Nerad said it doesn't matter how many cameras are installed — it's up to the people inside the building to ensure everyone is safe.
"There are response systems we can put into place, but at the end of the day, it's up to us to make schools safe for students," he said.
DeAngelis agreed. In his presentation to the school board, he noted that feedback from parents, administrators and teachers stressed that character-building should be a priority.
"Bullying, harassment and intolerance, isolation, disconnection, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse and poor use of social media ... must be a focus of our work," hie presentation said.
Community collaboration key, school board members say
However, addressing a school's culture is more complicated than installing an intercom by the front door. To tackle the issue, Nerad and Deputy Superintendent Paul DeAngelis said school administrators plan to take a harder look at character education programs and anti-bullying policies.
The district also plans to explore ways to work with Birmingham's various community organizations — including the Birmingham Youth Assistance, Building Better Families Through Action and CECAC (Community Education through Collaboration And Communication).
School board trustee Geri Rinschler also suggested working with Birmingham's PTSA council and the schools' community service organizers.
"I certainly see tham as an internal structure that has access to the parent community and the next rung out, which are community organizations," Rinschler said.
Currently, Birmingham's high schools organize character-building programs throughout the year, including Challenge Days and Diversity Days. However, Nerad said he recently spoke with a group of high school leaders and they want more.
"(They said) we need to go beyond programs like Challenge Day and Diversity Day," he said. "They're just events. What do we do after them?"
- Birmingham Schools to Implement New Security Policies Starting Tuesday
- Teachers Taught How to React During a School Shooting Scenario
- Birmingham Schools Will Start Locking Front Doors During the Day
- 'We Owe It to Our Children': Birmingham Superintendent Vows to Review Safety Rules
Do you think focusing on character education programs will improve the culture of Birmingham schools? Will it have an impact on school safety?