THE MAGAZINE

The Comprehensive Handbook of School Safety

By E. Scott Dunlap; Reviewed by George Okaty, CPP

***** The Comprehensive Handbook of School Safety. Edited by E. Scott Dunlap. CRC Press; crcpress.com; 454 pages; $119.95; also available as e-book.

Dealing with a range of issues from accidental injuries to school violence, educators have a daunting responsibility to keep students safe in kind­er­garten through high school (K-12) environments. This book provides a holistic approach to assessing the challenges involved in school safety through thoughtful pieces by the editor and 15 contributors. The book is divided into four major sections: school security, school safety, emergency management, and program development and execution.

The security section surveys topics from access control to bullying in the K-12 setting. The authors focus on strategies for dealing with issues and provide scholarly references to empirical research. The chapter on school resource officers, for example, reviews studies on their effectiveness. Each chapter provides supplemental references, and most chapters also provide exercise questions for further discussion. The chapters on cybersecurity and information security are well thought out and relevant to today’s school environment.

A chapter that falls short of its potential for connecting school security to best practices available in other organizations is “Scalable Approach to School Security.” The writer discusses violence in hospital emergency departments but fails to clearly connect the practices to school situations. Overall, however, the section is informative and a good primer on school security issues.

The section on safety addresses issues such as fire, life safety, and OSHA-specific requirements. The material is comprehensive and discusses hazards specific to school environments, such as playground safety, transportation safety, and food safety. The chapters covering fire safety, fire protection systems, and life safety are especially useful. By addressing these topics, the book provides guidance security professionals can use to integrate security and safety programs.

Violence, major weather crises, and toxic chemical events call for crisis mitigation. The emergency management portion of the book consists of four short chapters that could be expanded and developed further. A more detailed discussion of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and a discussion of the Incident Command System (ICS) as it applies to the school environment would have been beneficial. Also lacking is a substantive discussion of developing crisis, emergency management, and continuity of operations plans. This is a missed opportunity to review actual school incidents and community responses.

The final portion of the book covers program development and execution. Creating written programs, training, record keeping, and communication are among the topics discussed. These chapters serve as a blueprint for integrating security, safety, and emergency management initiatives, and this section summarizes the holistic approach to school safety.

Reviewer: George Okaty, CPP, is a member of the ASIS School Safety and Security Council. He is director of safety and security for Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Virginia, and is a board member of the Virginia Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

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