Take a moment to consider what ultimate safety might feel like. What if there was never a question whether or not a student would be supported through their emotional growth? Where all students received the same information about the basic functions of human bodies and how to adequately care for themselves. Imagine if students were able to stay in class and access content even if they were out of uniform. Wouldn’t it be incredibly cool to see neuro-diverse students existing in learning environments that prioritize access to necessary supports? How amazing would it be for teachers to have the capacity to be both academically and emotionally supportive?
Student safety is a heavily nuanced topic. Even beyond school shootings, there is a genuine need to make sure students, families and staff are socially, emotionally, physically, and mentally safe. The ways we consider school safety often start at the state and federal levels with a trickle down effect that ultimately negatively impacts the well being of students in under-resourced schools.
When thinking about this topic, I had an immediate concern around the consequences of the reversal of Roe v. Wade. I had big questions around how to support students in their sexual health needs and their access to sex education. Something we know to be true is the ever common cliche “with knowledge comes power.” True justice is the sharing of information to provide access. As educators and community members, we commit to preparing students for life after school. This commitment includes making sure students have a clear understanding of their anatomy, the functionality of reproductive organs of all genders, impacts of hormones, hygiene and an even longer list of important bodily functions that will definitely impact the success of their adult lives. I am a product of teen pregnancy. I am confident that if my parents had access to sexual health education, they might not have had to endure the unfortunate consequences of such a circumstance.
This is one example of the nuance involved in the conversation of student safety. When reading the article from these community conversations, a theme I am seeing is around support for teachers and staff. Like all other humans, the adults in every school building need to receive access to mental health services, effective health care, and for decision making agencies to have a general consideration of staff capacity to take on additional roles beyond their job descriptions. While this may be obvious, I would like to remind us that, when we take intentional care of the adults in schools, learning environments naturally become more supportive, loving, positive, compassionate, and growth oriented. All together, these are characteristics of a safe academic setting where students receive all of the support necessary for them to access content.
In the spirit of being solution oriented, I believe it is important to consider the collective perspectives of staff, students, and families around school safety. Community feedback and the implementation of their perspectives when developing these plans are essential. The livelihood of these groups of people depend heavily on the choices of individuals who rarely step foot onto school campuses. I’d love to see staff, students and families establishing a collective vision of what ultimate school safety could look like. From there, decision makers would have clear actionable information that allows them to work backwards to generate clear benchmarks for a masterful plan. By implementing community feedback it is possible that students will be able to thrive in environments that meet them where they are and provide necessary support for social, emotional and academic learning. Wouldn’t that be rad?
Moe Gram is a multidisciplinary visual artist living in Denver, CO and working as the Community Outreach Coordinator for RedLine Contemporary Art Center. Gram graduated from California State University Bakersfield with a major in Studio Visual Arts and a minor in Cultural Studies; during which she participated in a 6 month museum studies and studio arts program in Florence, Italy. She is a former educator and current community advocate.