by John Warner, MSBA’s Center for Education Safety

With the most recent school violence event fading into the background a bit with both time and other daily pressures taking its place, the MSBA’s Center for Education Safety suggests a bit of reflection before the shock is gone altogether. Workplace violence, and make no mistake, this was indeed a workplace violence event, is as much a part of the landscape of school violence prevention issues as the thought of strangers entering to do harm to students and staff. Of course, some of the same precautions and response annexes are part of the process; run if possible, hide until you can run and fight if you need to. But we think the lesson to take away from this tragedy specifically is that we have to find a way to be comfortable and have a clear path to being able to share those issues and concerns that might migrate from our personal lives into workplace events. Violence at home can become violence outside of the home and safety of ourselves and loved ones can transmit to safety of students and staff if the right information is available. It is a hard thing to share personal issues and fears, which often feel like personal failure, with workmates and especially with the administration that we feel might judge our personal lives or make us feel like discipline is at hand. Reaching out to those around us in both good times and bad opens those doors to communicate what the realities of a situation are, as well as the reasonable responses at hand. Schools that take the time to assess their own culture and climate for students and staff find that they are ahead of the curve in responding to issues that arise. This is a part of the assessment of Behavioral Risk, which is a bedrock process for all of the issues that arise in a school structure, whether you are addressing bullying, self-harm situations or any number of personal, family or relationship concerns. At MSBA’s Center for Education Safety, we urge school leaders and staff to work at the process of opening those doors to having frank and honest discussions with your staff now, so when those issues and concerns arise, the communication line will already be in place.