School Safety: Preparing for the New Normal
College is the time when you take control of your own life. After 18 years of having you decisions made for you—going to school because you have to, living under your parents’ roof--you finally get to call the shots.
Especially for those of us who are moving away from home, college can be very unpredictable. Even though you try to prepare for the next phase in your life, there’s so much you just don’t know to prepare for when you decide to pursue higher education. Our college fears include the usual academic concerns like, “Do I have a math test today?” or “When’s the latest I can drop a class?” But for many, these fears are compounded with safety concerns like, “Is it safe for me to walk back to my dorm this late?” or “What if this lockdown drill is real?”
The National Center for Education Statistics reports, “In 2015, there were 27,500 criminal incidents against persons and property on campus at public and private 2-year and 4-year postsecondary institutions that were reported to police and security agencies.” That’s only the crimes that were eventually reported. Burglaries and forced sexual offenses were the most commonly reported crimes. And with increasing occurrence of mass shootings (especially those at schools), the proposed changes to Title IX, and stories like the OSU student who was abducted at gunpoint on campus, it is more important than ever to be prepared and protected as a student. Here are a few ways to stay safe:
When it comes to domestic violence, there are definitely signs that you can look out for to keep yourself and your friends safe. Look here for more specifics about things to watch out for in partners.
Also be aware of dangers when it comes to drinks. Always try to drink from closed bottles and cans. The best rule of thumb is that if you didn’t physically see someone open or make the drink, don’t take it. Be smart about taking drinks from strangers, and don’t ever leave your drink unattended.
Have a Plan When it Comes to School Safety
• If there is a fire or an active shooter in your dorm or on your campus, where would you go?
• How would you make sure your friends are safe?
• How would you react if you were attacked or robbed?
• Do you want to carry weapons or learn self-defense techniques?
• How would you handle all these things if you lost access to your phone?
These are questions that can be surprisingly easy to plan for, if you sit down and take the time to do it. Know your exits in your dorm, your classrooms, your library, and cafeteria. Have your important numbers memorized in case you have to use another phone. Always have a self-defense plan, whether it’s carrying a taser or pepper spray or taking self-defense classes for a few weeks. You can never predict how a situation may turn out, but having an idea of how you will respond in a crisis can save your life.
Use Your Campus Resources
There are tons of apps that can help you stay safe during your time at college. You should always add your family/friends/significant other to your favorite contacts and speed dial. Make sure to share your location services when walking or driving late at night.
Some schools (like mine) even offer safety stations that can directly call campus or local police. Other schools offer late night transportation from campus to your dorm so you don’t walk home alone at night. If your school doesn’t offer this, organize a group that helps make sure others don’t walk around campus alone. Utilize group chats and social media to help others stay informed about safety concerns around campus.
And did you know if your school participates in federal student aid, they are required to provide you access to an Annual Security and Fire Safety Report? And access to the school’s crime log? The reason why, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security and Campus Crime Statistics Act. This requirement is a direct result of the tragic death of Jeanne Clery, a 19-year old college student who was raped and murdered in her college dormitory. This act is especially important for campus safety because it requires school’s to follow protocols to notify the students, faculty, and parents, in the event of an emergency or threat.
When in Doubt, Dip Out
Intuition exists for a reason. Here are some tips to remember:
• If someone lingering near a doorway makes you feel uneasy, head the other way.
• If two guys are arguing a little too much at a party, collect your friends and leave.
• If you feel that you’re being followed, head somewhere public and strike up a conversation with someone.
• Create a safe word with your friends for times you may feel in danger.
It’s always better to be overly cautious than regretful in any situation. It is important to always stay safe; you only have one life.