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Safety, Security, and Catholic School Culture

To Teach as Jesus Did:

Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee

April 17, 2018


"Safety, Security, and Catholic School Culture"


During this Easter season, we focus on the powerful images of resurrection, amazement, forgiveness, and transformation that the Scriptures bring to our attention each day.  For fifty days, from Easter until Pentecost, we’re reminded, through stories, images, and music to be people of hope.


At the same time, we watch, hear about, and experience violence all around us.  None of us—and none of our schools—is immune to threats, danger, and tragedy.  Again last week yet another of our school leaders needed to take action, which she instantly and effectively did, to ensure the safety of her students, teachers, and staff.  As Catholic school educators we can ask a fair question:  how do we balance the requirements for security and protection in our communities with the creation of cultures grounded in mercy and trust?


Let me suggest that the measures we take to ensure the safety and security of our schools are like the insulation, alarms, and temperature controls in a well-designed home.  While we live most days without giving particular attention to these devices and precautions, we’d never dispute how much we need them.  Safety planning and procedures, similarly, should be carefully embedded into the environment and the culture of every school.


Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, regardless of size, location, or demographics, should have these five basic safety components in place:


  • Clear communication protocols for all stakeholders, including parents, local law enforcement, and community agencies.


  • An updated Emergency Operations Plan that is regularly reviewed.


  • Systematized practice drills for various emergency situations.


  • School structures and devices to support the Emergency Operations Plan; e.g., signage, doors, locks, cameras, public address systems, etc.


  • A culture of awareness in which community members know each other and watch out for each other’s good.


School safety is about more than crisis avoidance; it’s about protection through awareness and care.  During these Easter days, let’s renew our efforts to be disciples known by our attentiveness to and love for one another.


A blessed Easter season to all!


Kathleen A. Cepelka, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools

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