Injury control researchers
Students feel safe at school. In fact, they often feel safer at school than
they do outside school, report researchers from the Center for Injury Control
at the Rollins School of Public Health.
study school safety equipment
Led by Knox Todd, assistant professor of surgery, and Marlena M. Ward, research
coordinator at the Center for Injury Control, the Emory team investigated
how nearly $20 million in Georgia Lottery for Education proceeds were spent
for middle school and high school safety equipment technology and whether
school staff and students thought the equipment made the schools safer.
The study was conducted earlier this year at 15 public middle and high schools
across Georgia at the request of Gov. Zell Miller's blue ribbon committee,
the Council for School Performance.
Schools used the funds to purchase video surveillance cameras, metal detectors,
security systems, communications equipment and fencing. According to the
researchers, the equipment has brought mixed reactions from Georgia's students,
teachers and administrators, some of whom worry it fuels perceptions that
schools are unsafe.
The researchers found inconsistencies between a school's stated needs and
the safety interventions
it chose. In addition, the thoroughness of schools' needs assessments varied
widely. For example, school staff indicated that violence and vandalism
most often occurred outside school buildings, yet most video cameras monitored
the inside of school buildings. And when cameras were placed outside, inadequate
lighting hindered effectiveness.
Many schools, however, report benefits from the equipment. Administrators,
security personnel and teachers reported using walkie-talkies to communicate
with each other while performing monitoring duties. They reported feeling
less isolated when communications equipment and alarms were available. Teachers,
especially those working in school buildings at night and those teaching
in mobile classrooms or isolated buildings on larger campuses, valued safety
equipment the most.
School staff said they thought metal detectors and other equipment deterred
violence and other criminal activity. Teachers and other school staff reported
they felt safer because of the equipment. While students were less likely
to view the equipment favorably, some admitted they would feel less secure
Despite media attention to recent acts of violence in schools, the researchers
learned that school staff and students see these as isolated incidents,
not commonplace events. The perception is that such incidents happened at
"other" schools, and not one's own. Students and school staff
were angered by what they considered negative reporting about public schools,
the researchers said.
Although expenditures for school safety equipment were viewed positively,
many said the funds might have been better spent on additional staff or
academic initiatives. Those queried pointed to the quality of human relationships,
not the presence of safety equipment, as the determinant of school safety.
When teachers and school administrators are trusted, students are more likely
to express safety concerns to staff, the researchers report.
"In all cases that firearms were discovered, they were discovered because
a student informed staff that another student had a firearm," Todd
The researchers stressed that the study is preliminary and that more needs
to be learned about the impact of safety equipment on school safety.
Return to January 21, 1997 Contents Page