Prevention, community vigilance are key to keeping schools safe
The key to keeping schools safe lies not in having more intrusive security measures but in prevention and enhanced community vigilance, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing yesterday in a ministerial statement in Parliament addressing concerns after the River Valley High School incident.
He said a collective role is needed to look out for potentially worrying behaviours and report possible threats.
"We do not want to turn our schools into fortresses, which will create unease and stress among our staff and students.
"We also do not wish to paradoxically engender a siege mentality among students and staff, causing them to take extreme measures to protect themselves, at the expense of a shared sense of security," he said.
It was clear in discussions that school leaders agreed unanimously that schools are like a second home for students.
"It is a safe place where values are cultivated, lifelong relationships built, and a shared identity forged," Mr Chan said.
"It is a warm and supportive environment that allows students with different learning needs and aspirations to discover their passions and develop their strengths. And, above all, it is a trusted space."
Questions were raised about the adequacy of school security measures after the July 19 incident when a 13-year-old male student was allegedly killed by his 16-year-old schoolmate with an axe in a school toilet.
Schools already have various security measures in place, he said. They include physical barriers such as fences, roller shutters, closed-circuit television cameras and alarm systems that can trigger an alert.
Security officers conduct spot checks and register visitors before entry into the school.
All schools also have a School Emergency Structure to deal with emergencies - to respond, recover and restore the situation back to normalcy.
It covers areas such as first aid, search, trauma management, evacuation, handling of casualties and managing an emergency operations centre.
Mr Chan added that teachers are trained to respond to different emergency scenarios.
School leaders, staff and students take part in regular emergency training exercises to practise how to handle emergency situations in school, including security incidents.