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A Safe Community

Defining community safety need not be subjective. In the U.S., we know that car accidents pose the greatest danger to children and teenagers of all ages. We know the high risks that suffocation, drowning, fires/burns and poisoning pose to young children. We know that substance abuse is connected to car accidents, and often, to physical or sexual abuse in the household, and that these behaviors are connected to runaways and abductions. We know that stranger danger is far, far less of a threat than any of these other issues. Cell phones have greatly improved child safety because parents and children and teenagers can reach one another whenever they feel the need. Loved ones can track the location of one another (and should be ones who own and control the use of that data). They can take immediate action to eliminate or greatly minimize specific dangers.

Gun-related injuries and deaths are a serious issue, but the numbers are not high. In the U.S., each year, from 1992 until 2016, about fifty people died in “school associated violent deaths.” Some years, the number was as high as 63, and in 2015-2015, it was 38. During this period, there were about twenty gun-related youth homicides, and less than ten suicides.

Every day, many students the threat of danger—especially between 3:00PM and 4:00PM, when unsupervised secondary students are released from a day at school.

Beyond mortality statistics, we do not measure the number of students in jeopardy, the severity of the danger, the location and scale of the problem, or other relevant information. We ought to begin by gathering the relevant statistics—for whatever reasons, there is no up-to-date, comprehensive source, not in the U.S., not in most other countries. We need to know relative risks, dangers, and known remedies. Every community should collect, organize and publish this data regularly (monthly, quarterly). A complete report should be widely distributed; data should be available for online analysis; trends should be clearly reported to the community; and everyone ought to update their knowledge and beliefs at annual public health and safety meetings attended by teachers, administrators, parents, and especially, by students. Quarterly and annual roll-ups should be organized by municipality, county and state for use by students, teachers, administrators (each school through its health and wellness center), researchers, planners, and by the media.

Tracking successes and failures, becoming directly involved in solutions, helping other schools and communities that cannot or will not do the work on their own—these are jobs students can do. If these activities become part of My Friends, Family & Community, students will interact with data, and with local law enforcement, local medical authorities, bicycle shops, bus operators, car owners, liquor retailers (a significant contributor to car-related injuries and deaths), families with swimming pools (to reduce drowning), the local Red Cross, and more. Students with a personal or professional interest may devote Student Choice hours to running classes for other students, seniors, and the community. In short, this is opportunity to improve safety, learn about safety, promote innovation, build community, begin a career.

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