School-safety preparedness: A qualitative study of principals' perceptions of using a school-safety checklist
This qualitative study examines whether requiring principals to complete a safety checklist once each semester as part of their required duties has any effect on school-safety preparedness at the building level. For the purpose of this particular study, school-safety preparedness was defined as preparedness for emergencies. The study is based on interviews of six school principals from an urban school district in Indiana. Two principals each from the elementary level, middle school level, and high school level were interviewed. Data were collected by conducting interviews in person, taking field notes, and tape recording the interviews. ^ Two theoretical frameworks were used in the study: phenomenology and reality testing. Phenomenology was used to focus on the lived experience of the participants in the study. This particular study examines how the six participating building principals make meaning from completing a school-safety checklist twice each school year on school safety preparedness at the building level. The participants were asked to describe their experiences and share their perceptions; what they were doing, why they were doing it, and how it affected safety preparedness in their school building. Reality testing was used to determine what is actually happening in the real world. The use of reality testing in this study focused on determining what was actually occurring in the schools that were using the safety checklist.^ As a result of the study, four general themes emerged as the effect completing this checklist has on school-safety at the building level. The four emergent themes were: awareness; credibility; uniformity; and accountability. When a principal reviews this checklist at the beginning of the school year in August, he or she is made aware of the items that must be given attention. Awareness is essential. It cannot be assumed that every principal knows what all of the safety issues are.^ Once awareness has been established, principals want to be assured that the checklist being used is credible and uniform throughout the school district and the county. Credibility includes knowing the checklist is sanctioned by the county school safety commission and is based on best practice. Uniformity means the checklist contains standards that are the same for every school in the district and the county. Finally, using the checklist forces a principal to be accountable. The end result is a completed document that the principal has signed indicating that he has indeed fulfilled his responsibilities as school-safety leader for his school.^
Marilyn A. Hirth, Purdue University, William D. McInerney, Purdue University.