Safe spaces have been quite the rage lately on school campuses. And while they do promote excellent communication and discussion of ideas and concepts, help to reduce violence and hate, the idea that safe spaces can protect individuals inside the space is a far cry from reality. To take a long trip back to the beginning of time, even the Garden of Eden, which was fabricated to be a safe space, contained a snake in the grass (harm). And as Jordan Peterson so famously wrote: “Every gingerbread house has a witch inside.”
I bring us this concept of safe spaces because generally the public and Boards of Education view the entire school campus as a safe space. One that is free from harm. One where things like that don’t happen on their campus. This line of thinking is foolish at best and murderous at worst. Example after example looms in the media and has for years. Bombings, shootings, stabbings, use of vehicles as a killing machine have all created fantastical headlines. And while initially shocking, our adrenaline and drive for change dump faster than we can change the channel. So, how do we affect change in a world where the cake icing is peace, diversity, politeness, political correctness & safe spaces and where the cake is violence, hatred, and death? The answer lies in a punch bowl of assertive communication, education, and responsibility.
More than 1,000 mass shootings have occurred since 2012. Acts of violence are real. They occur and no space is off-limits. To properly combat the violence of this magnitude, we must use all available resources we have and that starts with realizing that the possibility is real. We must run our schools responsibility and that means not lying to ourselves, students or parents. Taking ownership of these facts allows us to consider proper training and education to effectively deal with the scenarios. When we lie to ourselves and our staff, we do not educate them for real life. We educate them for a fantasy world. A world that doesn’t exist. A world where criminals will hold back and “wouldn’t do that.”
The next step is to communicate assertively. Staff, students and parents need to know, under no uncertain terms, that their school is not a “safe space” and that no space is “safe.” And while that is a tough truth to hear, it is much better to hear that it is not than to learn that it is not. Assertive communication is also par for the day when it comes to communicating your policies, enforcing your policy and setting boundaries for all staff, parents, and students.
In essence, the punch bowl of answers is the only was to get close to something that resembles Hollywood’s concept of “safe spaces.”