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New Focus On Learning Plus Emphasis On School Design Keys To Creating Safe Schools, Author Says

August 1, 2001-- To promote school safety, educators must design environments where students can acquire the knowledge to protect themselves and others — a new definition of "learning," says the author of the recently published book, "Creating Safe Schools for All Children."

"Of all the sources of threats to students, ignorance may be the most serious," says Daniel L. Duke, who is also director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for Educational Design at the University of Virginia. "Many safety problems can be traced to lack of knowledge regarding how to handle difficult situations, when to avoid confrontations and what to do in emergencies. Students must learn how to conduct themselves in ways that reduce the likelihood of harm."

In his book published this summer by Allyn & Bacon, Duke offers seven standards of school safety reflecting conditions that can provide a safe learning environment for students and staff. They are:

    1. Students should know how they are supposed to behave at school and understand the reasons why;
    2. Rules are enforced and consequences are administered fairly, consistently and humanely;
    3. Students feel valued and cared for;
    4. A balance exists among efforts to promote appropriate conduct, discourage misconduct and effectively handle that misconduct if it occurs;
    5. School authorities anticipate and prepare for disruptive or dangerous situations;
    6. A school’s physical environment has been designed to promote students’ safety and well-being; and
    7. Parents and community members are committed to creating and maintaining safe schools.

"Part of every school’s educational mission must be to teach and model rules and expectations concerning how students should act in class, in school when not in class, coming to and leaving school, and at school-sponsored events," says Duke, a professor at U.Va.’s Curry School of Education.

Duke, who writes in his book how school safety concerns have changed over the past 50 years, says people can employ numerous perspectives in examining the issue. These include the educational viewpoint as well as those that are psychological, organizational, political, cultural and design-based, he says.

"Schools that are safe for all students do not rely on one approach. They instead offer a variety of prevention, intervention and management measures that promote good behavior and discourage misconduct," he says.

As director of an educational-design center, Duke knows designers can create facilities to promote safety. For example, schools can be designed to reduce the likelihood of conflicts that can occur when students change classes. Such design elements include better lighting, unobstructed spaces, glazed surfaces and the location of administrative offices.

Other design factors, such as size, also promote safety, he says. "By designing smaller schools and redesigning large schools into smaller units, educators can reduce feelings of isolation and foster caring learning environments."

Maintenance also plays an important role, he says. "Well-maintained schools convey to students that they are valued by their community."

Contact: Ida Lee Wootten, (434) 924-6857

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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