4.6 Safety in Education

In 2012 and 2013 a consortium of European researchers conducted research on the manner in which law is applied
to regulate a safe educational environment. In many countries, students are required
to be at school under compulsory attendance rules. A stable school setting enhances
a safe learning environment. Violence and associated school safety raise
legal questions about constitutional rights, due process, liability, privacy,
concerning records and discipline. School leaders develop proactively
clear and consistent policies to promote safe educational environments and have to publish,
implement, and maintain these safety policies. School leaders have a duty to provide
reasonable supervision of students and maintain the safety of school grounds. If these measures are appropriate, the risks of violence
as well as its effects at school will be reduced. School officials, teachers, and/or
the school or governing boards face potential liability for civil damages for students harmed
in the violent acts of students or non-students. This can be the case when educators fail
to supervise specific areas at school where prior instances of violence occurred, when they fail to warn students
about pre-existing dangers, or fail to adhere to their school safety plans. Leaders in educational institutions must ensure
that students and parents are informed about the provisions of
school conduct codes and safety plans. As part of procedures related to student enrollment, school officials might ask students and their parents to sign forms
stating they have read their school conduct code. In order to be valid, the aim of school policies
and the methods used should be legitimate and reasonable, the standard that school safety and violence
prevention policies and plans should meet. School leaders are required to show
the same degree of care and supervision that reasonably prudent parents
would employ under the circumstances. School officials must balance students’ access to education, autonomy and privacy with their duty to maintain schools
as safe and orderly learning environments. Since educational officials are involved
in significant record-keeping (including student’s school records, medical,
disciplinary records, and crime reports), they should take reasonable steps to ensure
that confidentiality is maintained. Privacy issues should be taken into consideration in
counseling matters within schools and between schools, social and health organizations,
and law enforcement agencies. School officials may disclose information with legitimate interests
in the behavior of their students. This includes students in their classes or
who may soon be entering their classes. Reporting student information to other schools
or agencies is a delicate matter. Generally, school officials who disclose student
education records to colleagues in other schools must make reasonable attempts to notify the parent
or the student prior to releasing the information. Generally the law restricts access to student records
by non-school individuals or organizations without prior written consent from the parents, with exceptions for possession of drugs or
weapons by students on school grounds, and behaviors that reach the level of destruction of property
or assault of fellow students or school personnel. The release of disciplinary information for such
matters as disrespect for teachers or staff, bullying, behavioral or academic history,
personal interests, extracurricular activity, or similar background information on a student
will require prior notification to and consent of the student’s parents before it can be released to a third party. School policies should employ standard sets
of reasonable security measures. Threats of harm to another person may take a variety
of forms of threats including those that are: direct indirect veiled conditional Students’ speech rights may be limited
where they substantially disrupt class work by causing material or substantial disruptions School safety efforts may include searches using:
metal detectors, cameras, sniff dogs Policies may also include dress code requirements. Searches must be justified at their inceptions, conducted in manners reasonably related
in scope to the circumstances, may not invade students’ rights more than
necessary to maintain order in schools. School staff may frisk students and
proceed on reasonable suspicion. Teachers and staff should be careful to
document their preliminary observations, sources of information, investigate evidence
and verify the reliability of the information given by others that leads to
reasonable grounds for searches. Since school governing bodies own lockers, locker searches are permissible as
a function of the orderly administration of schools. Still locker searches should not extend to students’ private articles
within lockers that are not in plain view unless they consent freely before searches occur. Since strip search represents serious invasions of privacy, officials must thoroughly explain that their actions
are in accord with a pre-existing policy and have a witness present. The investigatory or search activities
of police in a school must be objectively reasonable under
the totality of the circumstances, based on an independent assessment of
specific and identifiable facts. Metal detector searches are
permissible security measures when school policies governing such searches are in place
and when notice (e.g. posted signs) make it clear that such searches
are to be conducted in schools. Pre-established procedures should regulate the use of other
metal-detecting methods to inspect students for metallic objects. Photographing public areas such as buses,
hallways, classrooms, and cafeterias is permissible if done in
compliance with legislation. Where students have reasonable expectation of privacy
in areas being filmed, such as locker rooms, the use of a camera is normally unacceptable. School policies should bear a reasonable
relationship to their educational mission while maintaining a safe educational environment. Schools officials have the responsibility
to ensure the safety of teachers and students and deal with undisciplined youth, who may potentially
threaten the safety of the others in attendance. Since school leaders have great flexibility in determining
and establishing disciplinary methods, they may respond to threats of violence
made by students, and suspend or expel students for infractions of school rules
provided they respect fundamental rights such as due process, equal protection, free speech,
freedom from discrimination based on race, religion, gender, disability,
and/or national origin. Disciplinary methods employed
by school officials include detentions, time-out or isolation rooms,
alternative education programs, denial of participation in school activities, verbal reprimands, suspensions,
and/or expulsions. A student may be disciplined for
on-campus and for off-campus conduct if the school can show that the student’s actions
have a direct and immediate effect on school discipline and/or
the safety of students and staff. Reasons for suspension of expulsion of students include: students found with a weapon and any other
inherently dangerous objects on school grounds, threats of violence from students, including
assaults not involving the use of weapons School officials must follow procedural requirements if students are to be suspended for a substantial
period of time or expelled from a school. Generally, expulsion is warranted only in
cases of repeated or extreme misconduct, attacking peers or teacher, drug use,
and weapons possession or use. Procedural protection includes: Notice to the student and parents; Of the reasons and evidence; A fair and impartial hearing; Right to be represented by counsel; Reasonable time to prepare; The opportunity to review evidence; The opportunity to examine or present witnesses; A record of the proceedings; Decision based on substantial evidence. Generally, notice and a hearing
must precede removals from school, except when students present imminent threats
to the safety of themselves or others, and in the case of conduct that seriously
disrupts the academic atmosphere of schools, and/or endangers peers, teachers or staff,
or damages property. In emergency situations,
a two-step approach may be employed: first, immediately impose a
temporary suspension or expulsion; second, enforce a permanent expulsion after the proper notice
and hearing provided as soon as practicable. Conclusion School policies should be aimed at
awakening the child respect for the law and for the dignity and integrity of
all the members of the school community. True justice is less about the effort
to exact punishment and retribution but about working to maintain safe
and peaceful educational environments.

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