A good study environment that guarantees safety and enjoyment for learners are critical ingredients in fostering learning. Learners require a supportive and conducive environment for proper development. A safe learning environment translates into a comfortable learning environment, and both learners and their teachers can focus on their core missions at the centers. In the recent years, exposure to learning institutions acts of violence such as shootings has dramatically affected learners. The United States has had more than 288 school shootings since 2009, and this is 57 times as many school shootings as all the other G7 countries combined (Grabow, 2018). Violence and all other acts that endanger learning institutions can be seen to contribute to the quality of learning. This paper investigates the connection that exists between safety and a productive learning environment.
The quality of a learning environment influences the efficiency to which the learners learn. While it is true that learners learn differently depending on their mental capabilities, the environment plays a significant role in their learning capabilities. A safe and supportive environment translates to a comfortable learning environment as the learners feel at home. Such environments where students feel safe allows them to open their minds actually to listen to what their teachers are saying. This implies that such an environment empowers the learners to achieve their highest potential. For any learning environment, the primary focus has to be on the students or learners. Every effort has to be put in place to foster a safe learning environment. In a similar study conducted by the California Safe Schools Coalition, it is noted that 27% of students with mostly (A) grades said that they strongly felt safe in the learning institution (Clarke & Russell, 2009).
Students who feel safe at school tend to be more positive and put in more effort hence are more likely to plan to go to college. In the study conducted by the California Safe Schools Coalition, more than 87% of the learners who reported that they felt safe in their learning environments said that they plan to go to college, as compared to only 70% of those who did not agree that they felt safe (Clarke & Russell, 2009). This study highlights the essence of creating a positive environment as a measure of cultivating a safe environment.
On the converse, violent and unsafe environments may influence learners not to go to college and may affect some of them to end up in crime and other illegal activities. In her article titled "School Violent Crime and Academic Achievement in Chicago," Julis Burdick-Will, (2013) explains that many underperforming learning institutions in Chicago also grapple with high instances of violent crimes on the schools. According to data collected from 100 high schools in the state, more than two-thirds of them called on the police to intervene in at least one violent incident in the institution. Continuous exposure to violence disadvantages the learners' educational experiences. Julis Burdick-Will, (2013) further notes the Chicago is one of the most crime-laden states in the country, and there is a possible correlation between a lack of safety in the learning institutions and the growing crime. Similar opinions are shared by Estrada, Gilreath, Astor & Benbenishty, (2013) in their paper titled "Gang membership of California middle school students: behaviors and attitudes as mediators of school violence." They argue that while middle schools serve a fundamental developmental role among learners, some of the schools are unsafe and expose the learners to risky peer behaviors where gang culture is harbored. The study further revealed that 15-20% of middle school students in California reported the presence of gang culture in their schools. These findings are crucial as they acknowledge that students are more likely to interact with gang-affiliated peers in school environments. This increases their vulnerability to join criminal gangs when they are out of school.
A lot of research has been conducted to investigate the influence of the safety of a learning environment to learning outcomes. The National School Climate Survey which was conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network in 2008 noted that harassment among the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students in schools was associated with reduced performance in class (Clarke & Russell, 2009). Gender-based harassment weighed down on their GPA scores as compared to those students that were less harassed. This shows that learning environments that appreciate diversity and encourage a positive learning environment are more preferred.
It is also critical to realize that there are many at-risk student populations in schools today. Minority students such as Hispanics face endemic challenges in the learning institutions and should be protected. Patton, Woolley & Hong, (2011)'s paper notes that African Americans are highly exposed to violence both from their immediate environments and the school. The exposure to violence and other forms of safety breaches affects their learning outcomes. In his paper titled "Creating Safe Learning Environments for At-Risk Students in Urban Schools," Shonta Smith, (2011) notes that many at-risk students today are being suspended and expelled from urban schools, mainly from repeated offenses, gang fights, possession of weaponry and other mistakes. He argues that the current education system cannot claim to be successful if the at-risk students are not provided with opportunities to prosper and succeed in life. In this regard, there is a need for closer focus on such populations, ensuring that they are as safe as possible.
In their paper titled "Exposure to violence, student fear, and low academic achievement: African American males in the critical transition to high school," patton, Woolley & Hong, (2012) explains that fostering strong parental support and involvement in school affairs has the ability to reduce the ripple effect associated with negative influences at school. A negative and unsafe environment lowers the learners' self-esteem and impacts behavior. In addition to building the relationship between learners and the educators, the relationship between learners and their parents should be encouraged as it buffers and counteracts the negative effects of interactions in and out of school, some of which may be toxic. Parental support strengthens the family dynamic and gives the learners a chance to feel free to bring up issues such as their fears of victimization from others. In this regard, the level of exposure to violence and other bad practices which can undermine the safety of learners can be mitigated through strong stakeholder involvement in learners' affairs, primarily the learners' parents and guardians.
It is essential that are the servicers and activities conducted in the school environment are appropriate to the learning environment. A report by the National Association of Psychologists (NASP) titled "Rethinking School Safety: Communities and Schools Working Together" highlights that genuine security in the learning space should encompass both physical and psychological safety. It is essential that school environments be cultured in a healthy way such that all the learners feel safe both physically and psychologically. Safety is an integral component of student life. As learners come to the learning institutions, they have to be guaranteed of their safety, have to feel welcomed and also respected. At the same time, they should be able to forge trusting relationships with at least one adult in the institution and have access to other forms of support such as mental and psychological care.
In conclusion, it is evident that safe environments are a critical ingredient to the learning process today hence should be cultivated. It is therefore imperative that all stakeholders join hands in creating safe learning environments for learners. As mentioned above, extreme levels of violence and external attacks like the school shootings witnessed in the country in the recent past threaten to affect the quality of learning. It is thus important that the government and policymakers put in place strategies to curb such extreme incidences. From the school perspective, it is also critical that the management, educators put in place strategies to protect learners from internal instances of insecurity and safety breaches. The institutions have to cultivate a positive culture where the learners are free to interact and attend to their learning requirements without fear. In addition to that, the schools need to guarantee both physical and psychological safety to the learners. As mentioned above, there are many reasons why safe learning ecosystems are fundamental for every child, the chief of which being its correlation to active learning (Marin & Brown, 2008). In addition to ensuring the immediate success of the learners regarding classroom performance, research analyzed above indicates that the futures of the same learners can be better optimized through the provision of save environments.
Burdick-Will, J. (2013). School violent crime and academic achievement in Chicago. Sociology of education, 86(4), 343-361.
Clarke, T. J., & Russell, S. T. (2009). School Safety and Academic Achievement. (California Safe Schools
Coalition Research Brief No. 7). San Francisco, CA: California Safe Schools Coalition.
Estrada, J. N., Gilreath, T. D., Astor, R. A., & Benbenishty, R. (2013). Gang membership of California middle school students: Behaviors and attitudes as mediators of school violence. Health education research, 28(4), 626-639.
Grabow C. Rose L., (2018). The US has had 57 times as many school shootings as the other major industrialized nations combined. CNN. Retrieved 20 September 2018, from https://edition.cnn.com/2018/05/21/us/school-shooting-us-versus-world-trnd/index.html
Marin, P., & Brown, B. (2008). The school environment and adolescent well-being: Beyond academics. JAMA, 295(13), 1549-1555.
Patton, D. U., Woolley, M. E., & Hong, J. S. (2012). Exposure to violence, student fear, and low academic achievement: African American males in the critical transition to high school. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(2), 388-395.
Smith, S. M. (2011). Creating safe learning environments for at-risk students in urban schools. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 84(4), 123-126.
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