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Holiday Depression and School Security

Dennis Lewis
Date of Post
Nov 30, 2009

 'Tis the Season...to be Safe & Secure

The holiday season can create additional safety and security concerns for school principals. While this time of year is typically a period of giving, for some it will be a time for taking as well. Some school buildings experience extended days of closure with few, if any, activities occurring. These buildings resemble a home with the occupants gone on vacation, thus, creating an increased risk for burglary. On the other hand, some schools schedule a multitude of athletic and other events, many times involving numbers of non-school personnel on campus. Both sets of conditions pose added risk.

Events involving staff and students generate added concerns just by the nature of the holidays. Strategies that can help minimize these various types of added risks occurring during the holidays include the following:

  1. Provide local law enforcement with the adjusted holiday schedule including when the offices will be open, during what periods custodial staff will be on campus and what, if any, activities will be occurring such as athletic tournaments and practices. This will aid the local beat officer in recognizing when something is out of place during a time of year when the routine of personnel is atypical.
  2. Remind staff to follow procedures for the handling of money and other items of value solicited and collected in the days leading up to the holidays. Cash should never be left in a classroom overnight. Most schools have secure locations designated for the keeping of money, and staff should be reminded to follow building practices and procedures related to this activity.
  3. As teachers leave for the holidays they should audit their classrooms for valuables that might offer enticement for the unauthorized shopper. Electronic and other items of value should be secured by placing them in a closet, cabinet or desk. Small, valuable, easily concealed items should be removed from ground level window sills, and blinds and shades should be pulled to prevent viewing into the classroom from the outside. Computer monitors should be turned off so attention is not drawn from the outside into an individual classroom.
  4. Custodial staff should ensure all exterior lighting designed for security purposes is functioning properly. This should be done in advance of the holidays to allow for repair time if necessary. It is always a good idea for custodial staff or other designated individuals to sporadically check the building during times of extended closure. This not only helps with security issues but also for maintenance problems that might arise from broken water pipes or heating problems.
  5. Meet with staff that are overseeing or supervising activities during the holidays. Make sure they are familiar with security and safety measures. This would include such things as locations of emergency supplies such as first aid, critical contact numbers, and evacuation and sheltering procedures for the area where the event is being held. And, staff should be reminded to monitor and restrict access into areas where activities are not being held.
  6. For staff taking students on out of town trips, other planning concerns will be present. With large numbers of family and school staff on the move during the holidays, it may be especially difficult to locate certain people during an emergency so making sure that all contact numbers, including temporary ones, are on file in the school office will be important. Additionally, staff should leave a detailed itinerary with school officials.
  7. The behavior of some students will deteriorate in the weeks preceding the holiday season. Holidays are often portrayed as a time of happiness, but for some students this time of year means doing without and the recognition of this can cause an increase in aggressive behavior including threats of harm to self or others. Additionally, some students show signs of depression by displaying a variety of anti-social behaviors. This can include, but not be limited to, defiance of authority, disrespectful behavior toward other students and staff and physical aggression. School staff should be on the alert for changes in a student’s behavior that seem to correspond to the approach of the holidays; when observed, counselors should be immediately involved and intervention steps taken.

Maintaining a safe school environment is never easy and it is further complicated by the unique issues present during the holiday season. The recognition of the added risks during this time of year, along with using the appropriate response strategies, can make the holidays a better time for all.