Reimagining School Safety: A Guide for Schools and Communities
Lauren Trout, Christina Pate, Krystal Wu & Joe McKenna; Center to Improve Social and Emotional Learning and School Safety
While school safety ideas and practices have evolved over the last several decades, the variety of school safety tools, policies, and degrees of success highlights a need for more conversation about the very concept of safety: what it is (and isn’t), who gets to define it, how it’s achieved, and at what cost.
In shifting how safety is defined so that it is not the absence of violence but the existence of systems and structures that support mutual care, belonging, and interconnection, schools’ policies, practices, and values shift towards creating strong communities and places of collaborative learning.
This guide aims to help education professionals reimagine and redefine school safety such that safety is not the absence of a negative but rather the existence of positive elements like interconnection, belonging, voice, and agency. Further, working from this paradigm of safety and centering the lived experiences of students and families—especially those who have been kept furthest from institutional power—can be a key component of designing systems that are more equitable and sustainable.
This interactive guide pulls from different frameworks and concepts, including complex adaptive systems, restorative justice, co-designing, and design thinking, to provide educators, school leaders, and district administrators with mindsets, strategies, and grounded examples of what is possible by reimagining school safety.