SAFE International Self Defense has taught more than 200,000 high school students in Ontario. Part of our mission is to keep our youth SAFE which is a responsibility we take very seriously, so I feel it very important to share our experiences teaching in high schools because WE CARE!!!
Here is a recent story of a stranger walking the halls of a public elementary school in Orillia, ON Canada and it reminded me of something we have consistently mentioned to teachers and administrators at high schools here in Canada. While we do the majority of our work in high schools, not elementary schools, the security of high schools is easier to take advantage of in my opinion.
When SAFE International self defense instructors arrive at schools, we go sign in at the office. Literally 1000s of times we have walked down school hallways on our way to the office when a teacher or administrator will look at us with suspicion. Speaking for myself, I will smile and say "Hi", and most teachers will respond with a "Hi", but that is all, without any further questioning, even though I can tell they know they should ask, or they want to ask why I am in the halls. I have often looked them directly in the eye, and immediately I can tell their intuition is screaming at them to ask me who I am, but no question follows in most cases.
We often think it is only our youth we need to teach the trusting of intuition to, but everyone, regardless of age or gender needs to acknowledge their intuition.
Picture one of us walking down the hall carrying a big duffel bag with our striking pads in it. Does the teacher know what is in the bag? If we were there for illegal reasons, would we likely admit to what was in the bag? No to both questions. In this day and age of school security being breached, it is imperative we implement some basic strategies on dealing with anyone who might enter the school outside of those who are expected to be there. Are there security issues with the students in the school? Yes, but we need to begin with a basic level of training, then expand on it.
Now, the odd time a teacher will say, "Excuse me, but can I ask why you are in the hallway?" When I explain I am there to teach self defense, they are almost always apologetic for asking. I tell them that is their responsibility to ask me, and that an apology is not necessary. I have even gone as far as to tell them that they should make sure I am there for self defense, because I could be lying. That gets some odd looks, a laugh, maybe an awkward grin, but I mean it. Now, many might chock this up to being Canadian, and our reputation for being very polite, but it is the job of the school staff to help protect their students, and themselves. I am not insulted by being asked, I AM EXPECTING TO BE ASKED!
We have even spoken to a number of higher level administrators about the issue, but surprisingly we just get a nod of agreement, but nothing else is done. We have offered to instruct the teachers on how to handle someone who may appear to be a visitor to the school, but to no avail yet. Do all the staff know how to identify possible trouble, how to handle verbally, or how to handle a worst case scenario? I can say with confidence that there is virtually no training in this area from what I have seen. Sadly, like usual, there is a level of denial and apathy that anything will ever happen UNTIL it happens. I do not blame anyone in particular, but think it is time we train the proper people accordingly so we have some consistency in security procedures. If you ask the teachers, they will tell you they would appreciate this type of training.
We at SAFE International care about the students and staff we work with and want to help ensure their safety!