The relationship between parents, students, and school officials has seen an increase in tension over the past year, with school safety being a paramount issue. Some schools have even had physical altercations with parents and police over attempting to remove students during a lockdown or similar situation. Many parents have lost faith that school officials can protect students or act in their best interest.
Technology has increased the speed at which information distributes and enabled students to inform parents directly. Parents or social media often know about school issues before the school’s staff. This situation creates additional friction for the perception that the school is trying to control a narrative verse giving the whole story for people to make up their minds.
“During the afternoon of Thursday, November 10, 2022, officers with the Huntsville Police Department responded to a call regarding a possible threat of violence towards students at local schools. Our local schools were notified of the threat as the incident was being investigated.” According to a Huntsville Police department press release.
However, Sam Houston State University students did not receive a notice of the possible threat. Arguably more in danger than closed Huntsville ISD campuses. It ultimately led to more questions about the ability of schools to protect students’ and the communities’ right to timely, accurate information.
Students could have entered a dangerous situation because information got lost in a failed system. Learning about a threat after it has passed is concerning. Knowing that officials had the information but did not provide it is unacceptable.
The Incident command style of managing information flow currently utilized by most school districts has proven ineffective countless times. Additionally, this style only reinforces people’s perception that schools attempt to control a narrative verse informing the public, further creating division.
The longstanding assumption that people cannot handle the truth or be trusted to act accordingly is no longer accepted. People want the truth and to be able to make an informed decision in the best interest of themselves and their families.
To improve communication, schools need to transition to a breaking newsroom style —providing the community with timely, unbiased facts about a situation so that individuals can make their own decision. Schools will never be able to provide information faster than students with their phones. So, any attempt to withhold information will be seen as deceptive and undermine trust. A newsroom style will help ensure the community has timely, accurate information—one step towards rebuilding trust.
A litany of legislation and tax dollars have gone towards school safety and improving communications. All continually fall short and do not address the root cause of the issue. So, why do we continue down the same path expecting different results? More resources into a failed model will not make it successful.