As educators, we can’t let ourselves be lulled into a false sense of safety by security theater.
The images of so-called safety in the classroom have changed throughout history– from students ducking under desks to save themselves from a nuclear attack to doors being blocked by patented barricades to stop a threat from entering a classroom. Highly engineered shades drop down to cover observation panels, further seeming to secure rooms.
These tasks become drilled into student safety practices and are considered all that’s needed to to protect students from the ever present threat of random acts of violence.
These are all components of what can be called security theater..
Defining security theater
In the popular series Adam Ruins Everything there’s an excellent demonstration of “a concept called security theatre…creating the illusion of security– a show that’s…put on to make it look like they’re doing a lot to protect us– even though they’re not.”
Dramatic, practiced and as protective as a desk seat against a nuclear blast, the theatricality of a “secure” school is something widely publicized with enormous resources devoted to ensuring students are safe in their learning environments.
Expensive Committees, Legislation and Weeks
Vague anti-bullying model legislation, anti-bullying commissions, anti-bullying weeks and anti-bullying awards are also a common technique for districts and states to demonstrate to their stakeholders that these schools are doing all they can to protect and support students.
However, for all of their unique approaches and marketing, committees, legislation and anti-bullying weeks all have one thing in common: they don’t do anything to stop bullying.
At best, the only action they take is establishing anonymous tiplines.
No fewer reports of bullying
Despite these anti-bullying efforts, there have been no fewer reports of bullying in schools.
In fact, anonymous tip lines have become vehicles for bullying themselves.
In addition to sincere reports, the tip lines intended to prevent bullying have unhelpfully added to overtaxed educator workloads. Mitigating false reporting and retaliation reporting in anonymous tip lines can be a frustrating drain on resources. But what other forms of reporting are available to supplement these tip lines?
Social Emotional Learning through Confidential Counselor Conversations
Confidential conversations– one where the student name is available if needed, function very differently than tiplines.
Confidential conversations between educators and students become a consistent way for educators to guide students in social emotional learning. Through confidential conversations, students become comfortable talking to their counselors about their feelings before incidents even happen.
When it comes to anti-bullying, tip lines are the pound of cure, but confidential conversations are the ounce of prevention.
Students who feel safe talking to their educators about their feelings maintain their social and emotional health. When students are healthy and supported, they are less likely to suffer victimization or bully other students.
The only way to prevent bullying is through ensuring students are connected to the educators devoted to keeping them safe. Maintaining this connection keeps emotional turmoil from escalating.
Maintaining consistent, easy to use systems for this communication is the best way for educators to prevent bullying. Everything else is just security theater.