As I write this message, the Federal School Safety Commission is putting the finishing touches on its report, which is expected to offer recommendations for keeping students safe and maintaining the kind of environment that empowers students to reach their full potential. NASSP has had a lot to say both to and about the commission. We have helped our officers and your fellow principals prepare testimony for every listening session with the hope that the voice of the principal—the leader who best understands the daily life of the school—finds an audience among federal policymakers.

We will know shortly whether they listened to our message. If they did, the report’s dominant theme will be: Safety is a function of people more than products. Yes, security equipment has its place, and some hardware and technology is essential for safeguarding buildings. But, to paraphrase one school safety expert who testified at a hearing focused specifically on hardening schools, it is ultimately the professionals in a school who keep students safe. It’s the principal who cultivates a culture in which every student feels known and valued and where everyone sees security as their personal responsibility. It’s the teacher who builds the kind of relationship with students that enables a student to speak up when something seems not quite right. It’s the mental health professional—both in the school and in the larger community—who intervenes and works with students who are otherwise silently suffering. If we want to ensure schools are safe, we must invest first in the people who make it happen.

And if, somehow, this theme is not the dominant theme in the Federal Commission on School Safety’s report, you can count on NASSP to continue to advocate for it even more loudly.

JoAnn Bartoletti
Executive Director, NASSP