Speaking as a San Francisco parent and school board Commissioner, it’s not exactly the most fun thing in the world to read this in your morning paper:
Nearly 900 San Francisco middle and high school students said they had carried a gun to school at least once last year, most of them saying they had done so four or more times, according to the most comprehensive district survey on school safety and climate.
In addition to the gun tallies, 1,767 students reported bringing another kind of weapon – a knife or club, for example – during the same time frame.
That’s 4 percent and 8 percent respectively of the survey respondents, rates slightly below national trends, according to district officials.
I don’t want to minimize the seriousness of this information, but I do want to stress that I’m convinced we have stringent safety measures and significant support for students in place. These include:
- Counselors, trained mental health professionals and trained security guards at every district middle and high school;
- School Resource Officers at every high school and many middle schools;
- A Safe School Line: Kids and parents can call and anonymously report any incident;
- Conflict resolution and personal safety is taught at every school, in every grade, including peer to peer education;
- Hundreds of community organizations at our school sites help us with violence prevention programs.
In addition, it’s important to keep the information in perspective. First, the survey takes student reports at face value without attempting to determine whether anyone is exaggerating. Second, while any kid reporting that he or she brought a gun to school is cause for alarm, we’re doing better than most — the middle school number is the lowest in the state, and the high school number is equal to the state average.
Of course, we can always do better and we should never stop trying to make our schools safe places where students can focus on learning and discovery and not conflict and fear. In this light, the study is valuable because it exposes a problem area and gives us some direction for where we need to put our energies to fix it.