As many parents in the district will know, Emmaus High School has now sent out two safety “alerts” in just the last 72 hours. On Sunday, they alerted parents of a bomb threat that had been made at the basketball tournament being held at the school. Tonight, they alerted parents again about a “concerning” online post made by a student in another Lehigh Valley School District.

Parents are rightfully concerned by these constant alerts. Its hard to feel safe when someone is constantly tapping you on the shoulder (or texting you or sending you automated phone calls), suggesting there might be danger lurking around every corner. And this is especially true right now, as the news is dominated by violent attacks motivated by hatred and bigotry. But it might be worth pausing for a moment and remember that just because the number of NOTIFICATIONS is increasing does not mean the number of INCIDENTS is increasing too. When many of us were kids, parents were only notified if there were serious, credible threats to school safety. Today, however, the social media rumor mills pressure school officials to send out alerts for every concern large or small, credible or not.

The fact is, our schools are very safe. The number of safety incidents have not increased in recent years. To illustrate this, I looked up the data on safety-related misconduct in the district from the PA Department of Education’s Office of Safe Schools to put together the table below. The kinds of things included in this data range from very serious (like aggravated assault and bomb threats) all the way to more common school problems (like fighting and theft). As you can see, there is no upward trend in such safety incidents.

So please, the next time you get that text message or robocall “alerting” you to a potential concern in our schools, or read about such a concern online, remember that our age of instant information can make the world appear much scarier, and more dangerous, than it really is.

PS: If you want to see more data on this same issue, please see my earlier post The Safety Myth.

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