Florida Department of Education’s
Office of Safe Schools
Research shows that schools are one of the safest places for children to be. The Office of Safe Schools (OSS) works to maintain and enhance this research by providing leadership on current and vital school safety issues. The fundamental goal of the OSS is to help schools foster safe and nurturing learning environments that directly and indirectly facilitate student achievement.
Though recent headlines have brought bullying, suicides, drugs and violence to the forefront of public consciousness, school-based professionals have been addressing these challenges for decades. A key finding from years of research on preventing youth substance use and violence is that students who have a sense of connectedness to their schools are more likely to have positive health outcomes. “Safe and Supportive Schools” foster school connectedness by taking a comprehensive approach to measuring and improving school climate.
To foster positive school climate, student engagement, safety and the school environment is consistently addressed at every level—from the classroom to the lunchroom. The benefits of positive school climate reach far beyond students’ social and emotional wellness. When students feel safe, supported and are equipped with social tools, high academic expectations are met with the students’ personal motivation, which ultimately lead to positive academic outcomes.
In 2008, Florida enacted anti-bullying legislation mandating that Florida school districts create their own state-certified, anti-bullying, anti-harassment policies. Now, every district in Florida has a system in place for identifying and responding to bullying issues.
Bullying behaviors are distinct in that they are systematic and chronic, they can be physical and/or emotional, they are increasingly carried out via electronic devices and they often create an intolerable environment for the victim. Cyber-bullying is perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing schools today as bullying activities that occur during non-school hours, spill over into the school environment.
A collaborative effort by several federal agencies, the website http://www.stopbullying.gov/, is packed with information, including: (1) strategies for preventing bullying; (2) interrupting bullying behaviors when first detected; (3) handling bullying among children with disabilities and special needs; (4) handling bullying among children with perceived or differences in sexual orientation.
A safe school has several components: extensive campus safety measures, drug and violence prevention initiatives, and perhaps most importantly, a school climate that promotes caring relationships. For additional resources on these and other topics such as: teen dating violence, gang prevention, zero tolerance or child abuse prevention, visit http://www.fldoe.org/safeschools/.
The School Environmental Safety Incident Reporting (SESIR) System collects data on 23 incidents of crime, violence, and disruptive behaviors that occur on school grounds, on school transportation, and at off-campus, school-sponsored events, during any 24-hour period, 365 days per year. Incidents are reported by schools to the districts which, in turn, provide the data to the DOE. The annual Statewide Report on School Safety and Discipline Data report includes:
The Florida School Environmental Safety Incident Reporting (SESIR) System Incidents and Resultant Disciplinary Actions Report summarizes the Total Number of SESIR Incidents by schools within each of Florida's school districts and their corresponding Total Matching Disciplinary Actions. The purpose of this report is to provide a detailed picture of the prevalence of crime and violence incidents within schools, districts and statewide as a means of assessing the accuracy of the SESIR and discipline data reported to DOE from each of these sources.