With recent events, I decided to take a detour from my original editorial calendar. Until this post, this blog has focused solely on crisis communication in higher education systems. However, scandals do not only occur on college campuses. Crisis communication in education is difficult because there should not be crises in education. People go to school to learn. However, after recent events, I decided to explore how primary and secondary schools handle crisis communications. In the face of adversity, how do schools not only protect their children but themselves?
Reader Discretion Advised
Let’s talk about the most obvious scandal to plague schools: school shootings. To be frank, this topic is too disheartening to discuss. Children go to school to learn not to get shot. According to the Washington Post, more than 150,000 students attending at least 170 elementary and secondary schools have experienced a school shooting since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. This figure is terrifying.
School Shootings in America Statistics (Source: Statista)
During these terrible times, schools must determine how to move forward in different ways. The way the administrators handled the situation following Columbine is most certainly different than the way administrators handled the situation following Stoneman Douglas. However, one thing is the same: the children always remain the priority.
Unfortunately, schools are prone to scandals. And when reviewing the headlines of other cases, one can see the vague similarities between scandal of primary and secondary schools and crises in higher education systems.
Another prevalent scandal to plague schools? Sexual misconduct. However, this misconduct is not most often between students, it is between teachers and students. While this statement might make you shudder, sexual relations between teachers and students is alarmingly prevalent.
St. George's School in Rhode Island was under investigation following the Spotlight story (Source: The Cut)
A story by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team uncovered the prevalence of sexual abuse in private schools in New England. More than 200 students in New England’s 67 private schools over the past 25 years accused school authorities of sexual abuse or sexual harassment. Often times, these stories go uncovered and these offenders go unpunished. Why did it take the Boston Globe to uncover this misconduct? Schools should be doing more to protect their children and prevent crises. Similar to the colleges previously covered in this blog post, administrators often try to cover up these scandals instead of confronting them head on.
How to Make a Change
Unlike higher education systems, primary and secondary schools have an interesting advantage: school board meetings. In most school districts, school boards meet on a regular basis. This open forum allows parents and community members to express concerns. And often times, people do utilize this platform specifically following a crisis or scandal.
Recent events have sparked my interest in this topic. It appears as though primary and secondary schools are more likely to make a change following a scandal instead of higher education systems. Are primary and secondary schools better at the right hook? The upcoming March for Our Lives is long overdue. However, this movement might be the right hook for gun control after decades of jabs.
Children go to elementary school, middle school, high school and college with one purpose in line – to learn. Therefore, these education institutions should keep its students as its priority. While crisis communication should have no place in education, crises and scandal happen. And the schools who handle it best will be the schools that protect its students the most.