Safe Schools: ID Badges for Educational Safety
Let me begin by saying that I do believe asking teenagers to wear ID badges at school is a sort of radical idea. It’s not completely radical, though; I know other principals who have implemented them with positive results, and I think ID badges are a lot less of an imposition on students and parents than, say, school uniforms, which we also considered. When I was in school, it went without saying that you dressed appropriately, or you would be asked to leave. The same was true for behavior. As long as everyone agreed on some formal boundaries, there could be informality in other areas.
Out of Control
But my students seemed to be losing control. It’s a good high school, a well-kept campus in suburbia, where high property taxes ensure that arts and athletics programs are well-funded, in addition to our award-winning English, math, and science departments. But some students took their prosperity for granted. There were incidents: small but disturbing. Vandalism, public sexual behavior, and violence, and they were all taking place on school grounds during school hours!
The idea of ID badges occurred to me when a new teacher came to me almost in tears. She had caught two students smoking and defacing a bathroom mirror, and when she confronted them, they refused to reveal their names! With nearly two thousand students in our school, it seemed unlikely the culprits would be brought to justice. The last straw came when a security guard brought one of the teens to my office: the girl wasn’t even a student at my school!
If each student were required to wear an ID badge, I thought, teachers would never have this problem. They’d always know the name of the teen they were dealing with, and we could tell at a glance whether or not someone belonged on campus.
There was some resistance, mostly from parents who thought the plan draconian and compared it to the metal detectors through which some students must pass each morning if their school is in a rough neighborhood. But, when they saw the statistics on crime and other offenses, most of them accepted my idea.
Getting Badges on Kids
The badges are not expensive to print. I found them online as “event badges”. They were ready quickly: within a week of my final decision, homerrom teachers were distributing ID tags with matching lanyards. The rules were explained: every student was responsible for his or her own ID. They were expected to wear them at all times (except in their gym uniforms—the coaches convinced me that might be dangerous). Lost or stolen badges must be reported at once. They would be responsible for the cost of any replacements. If they didn’t care for the lanyards, they were welcome to purchase their own bulldog clips. Badges simply had to be displayed right way up, where they were clearly visible. Obscene or inappropriate display resulted in an in-school suspension. I let them know I meant business.
To be fair, I ask everyone on campus to wear an ID card. I created one design for students, one for faculty, one for staff, and one for administrators. Yes, I wear my ID badge proudly every day!
Of course, handing out ID badges did not solve all the problems in my school, but it made things easier. The next time a non-enrolled teen decided to have a little fun in my high school, the security guard caught him walking through the door. Teachers reported less sass from students they didn’t personally know. We even found fun ways to use the badges: with bar codes and unique numbers, they could serve as raffle tickets during pep rallies, and every Friday, I would draw a number and announce the winner over our intercom. Prizes varied, but the kids did enjoy the free ice cream for themselves and their friends, and the logo T-shirts I sometimes distributed to the winners.
It’s not a perfect solution, but ID badges for high schools was the solution for us.