Prioritizing safety in schools

Prioritizing safety in schools

From the Desk of the Superintendent - March 7, 2023

Also published in Chinese in Sing Tao Daily.

By Dr. Matt Wayne

Safety in schools is at the top of mind for many educators and parents these days – myself included. It is the highest priority of the San Francisco Unified School District to ensure a safe learning environment for students, staff, and visitors on every one of our campuses. 

The district has a comprehensive crisis plan in the event of any emergency. In addition, each school site is required by the California Department of Education to have a Comprehensive School Site Safety Plan, which must be updated and reviewed, discussed and approved by the School Site Council every year. 

Safety improvements to school buildings

Schools have security measures that may include visitor check-in procedures, locked doors after the start of the school day, surveillance cameras, security aides, and other evidence-based prevention measures. SFUSD staff – both at schools and centrally – regularly audit and update these security measures. 

SFUSD is ensuring that all sites have security locksets (formerly known as Columbine locks) on every classroom and office door, which we expect will be completed by December 2023. Additionally, beginning in March, the district will continue to increase the safety and security at our school sites by modernizing Public Address (PA) systems at school sites that are in need of an update.

Through their Comprehensive School Site Safety Plans, schools plan how to respond and recover from an emergency, disaster, or event resulting in the disruption of normal school operations. Schools practice safety drills to help students and staff know what to do in case of an emergency. If an emergency does occur at a school, we will notify parents as quickly as possible using a variety of means including text, email and phone call.

Say Something Anonymous Reporting System

We actively work to cultivate trusting relationships at schools and want to make sure students know that they can always talk to a teacher, principal or another adult at their school. However, we know that some students feel more comfortable sharing anonymously, especially if they feel afraid or upset. 

As an additional safety measure, this school year we have been training all 6th-12th grade students at 40 SFUSD schools in the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System with Sandy Hook Promise. 

Students can use the app to report any type of serious concerns about students who may be struggling or potentially violent. “Tipsters” can send reports on anything from school threats they’ve seen or overheard to personal crises including sexual harassment, self-harm, abuse, bullying, and depression. We are glad that students are utilizing this tool as another way to tell an adult if something is wrong.

This new resource is one more way we can keep San Francisco public schools as safe as possible. Safety must come first in order to realize our vision that all students will graduate as independent thinkers with a sense of agency and to have attained academic and creative skills to lead productive lives and contribute to our community.

While I’m grateful for these safety measures we have put in place, I recognize the work is ongoing to make sure every person in our school communities feels safe. Like other school districts throughout the nation, staffing remains a challenge and things like infrastructure improvements take time to address. I am committed to partnering with our community so that our schools are adequately resourced as safe places where our staff and students can teach, learn and thrive.


This page was last updated on March 13, 2023