Secure, Safe & Orderly Schools: Definition & Characteristics

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will define secure, safe, and orderly schools, provide characteristics and examples of each and discuss ways to evaluate a school for safety, security, and orderliness.

Secure Schools

When we think about secure schools, we are mostly referring to the threat of danger coming in from outside. Secure schools have policies and procedures instituted to protect children from an intruder. For example, people are often required to show identification to pick up a child from school as a method of proving they are named on the child's approved pick up list. Secure schools also have physical features or layouts designed to minimize unauthorized entry. For example, schools may go on lockdown in the event of dangerous situations happening in the surrounding neighborhood, have security cameras inside and out, and make effective use of alarm systems.

When a school has a plan and executes it efficiently, that school is more secure. School security can be assessed by measuring the number of trespassers, break ins, firearms or other weapons, as well as other indicators within a particular school. Evaluating school security can include assessments of the policies and procedures, evaluation of the action plan, examination of school infrastructure, and the need to make updates based on these evaluations.

Safe Schools

Secure schools focus on external threats. A safe school, on the other hand, is more focused on internal threats (i.e., threats from within). If students perceive danger and feel fear from other students, teachers, administrators, or even the building itself, this may indicate the school is unsafe. For example, let's say a school has experienced a notable increase in fighting among student groups. There are already policies in place to address fighting, but in order to change the cultural climate of the school, teachers and administrators may need to investigate the cause of some of these fights to identify a larger threat to student safety.

The primary indicator of a safe school is the existence of a plan in the school's official policies and procedures to address situations that may be a threat to student safety. These threats and perceived threats can be measured using the results of open-ended surveys administered to the stakeholders in the school like students and their families, teachers and administrators, or even the larger community. Information from these surveys could be used to evaluate school safety by providing an opportunity for stakeholders to notify the school of their concerns. This means surveys must be designed with opportunities for free answer or fill in the blanks in order to gather the most comprehensive information about perceptions of fear among the student body.

Another way to measure the indicators of a safe school could be through analyzing the rate of absenteeism among students. For instance, perceptions of danger in a school may lead some parents to keep their children at home. Evaluation and assessment of school safety must be ongoing to accommodate for any changes in the school climate over time. Incorporating the results of these evaluations into the development of policies and procedures is a good way to improve school safety.

Orderly Schools

Maintaining orderly schools is essential and fundamental to ensuring the safety and security of students. Orderly schools are schools that foster respect and tolerance. By creating a climate of inclusion and acceptance, schools can establish expectations about student behavior as well as the consequences for being uncooperative in these policies. An orderly school has clearly stated policies and procedures that are applied fairly to all students, faculty, and staff. For instance, there have been cases in the past of difficulties with racial integration in schools. Residual fallout from segregationist policies has resulted in a phenomenon called the 'school-to-prison pipeline', where students of color are treated with discriminatory disciplinary practices that frequently lead to lifelong involvement in criminal justice systems. Applying disciplinary procedures with fairness and justice is critical to maintaining an orderly school and practices should address this need.

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