In his ministerial statement on the River Valley High School incident, Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing outlined in Parliament the security measures implemented in schools to ensure that schools remain a safe space following the incident.
Chan said that school leaders in Singapore are "unanimous" in their responses on the issue of school security, but said that "intrusive" measures like frisking might engender a "siege mentality".
Security measures implemented in schools
Elaborating on security measures implemented, he said that schools are secured with physical barriers like fences, roller shutters, CCTVs and alarm systems that can trigger an alert in the event of an intrusion.
Security officers also 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, he added.
Teachers are also trained to respond to emergencies by taking part in regular emergency training exercises where police and Singapore Civil Defence Force are involved as they are part of the wider community safety net.
Do not wish to compromise quality of school experience
On this note, Chan said that besides being a safe space, schools also have to be a "trusted space". "School is like a second home for our students," he said.
Besides being a safe space for values to be cultivated and relationships to be built, it has to be a "warm and supportive" environment for students with different learning needs and aspirations.
The ministry and school leaders do not want to compromise the quality of school experience for students and staff, even though it is critical to ensure the security and well-being of them.
"I have asked myself – what would it feel like if I must empty my pockets, be frisked, and have my bag checked before stepping through my house door or school gate?
Also, how would my fellow family members and students feel? How would we relate to one another in such an environment? Will it still be “home”?
Or will it create in me a siege-mentality? None of us wish to return to a home with metal scanners and bag checks."
Prevention and enhanced community vigilance are key
Chan acknowledged that while parents are worried, he said that the key to ensure schools remain a safe space does not lie in intrusive security measures, but "in prevention and enhanced community vigilance".
"We do not want to turn our schools into fortresses, which will create unease and stress among our staff and students," he said.
He urged everyone in the school community helps to look out for potential "deviant" or worrying behaviours and report possible threats, if one spots any.
He also said that the ministry will work with parents and community groups to further strengthen the support network. Teachers will also be more equipped with mental health literacy to ensure students are better cared for and supported.
Chan added that MOE will continue to update the security measures in schools "in a targeted manner and apply them sensitively to balance the security needs without losing the sense of safety, trust and homeliness of the school environment".
Top image from MCI YouTube.