Be extra vigilant this week

There are at least two reasons to be extra vigilant this week when it comes to school safety.

First, we know that anniversary dates of past school violent attacks are particularly significant to those planning a similar act of violence. Friday, April 20 marks the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

Second, Friday, April 20 is also designated as National School Walkout Day to protest school violence. This means that many of our schools will not be following their normal routines and students will be out of the building, on school grounds or otherwise out of class and hard to keep track of. It’s also a fact that transition times, those moments in our school day when students are moving from one place to another, are a high risk time for a multitude of incidents.

I urge you to create awareness among your school’s staff and encourage extra caution and vigilance for the remainder of the week.

School Safety for Less

School Safety for Less

 

Are you thinking of making improvements to your school’s safety?

I want to let you in on a way to improve your school safety for less.

For the next few months, my loyal readers and followers can engage any of my services at prices that haven’t changed since 2012. That’s right – until the end of the fiscal year (June 30), I will honor my old prices for any booking or project that comes to completion by October 31. This gives you nearly 3 months to book, and over 6 months to host a training, purchase an online course for your staff, obtain a threat assessment consultation, or update your school safety plan.

As a lifelong educator dedicated to making schools better places for students to learn, and for staff members to thrive, I have always made sure that my services fit with schools’ tight budgets. Since founding Youth Risk Prevention Specialists 6 years ago, I have sought to provide outstanding school safety services at an affordable price and I have never raised prices. We all know that inflation is one of life’s certainties, and in order to continue doing this important work, I must make a few changes.

As violence threat assessment finally begins to get the recognition it deserves. I expect a surge in schools seeking this type of training. I have been doing this work for many years, and have obtained the education and experience necessary to provide the most current, research-based training and assistance to schools setting up threat assessment teams. There are many large safety companies that focus on a particular product or safety niche and I am concerned that they will develop “pop-up” threat assessment training services to complement their products or services. Even without adequate training or expertise in this area, they will likely get a lot of takers. Why? Because they have thousands of dollars to invest in advertising. A very small business like Youth Risk Prevention Specialists does not.

What I do provide is experience, knowledge, over-the-top service and customization to make sure you get exactly what you need to improve your school’s safety. I’ve worked nationwide with schools, organizations and the Federal Emergency Management Agency on projects that increased the safety of schools, workplaces and faith-based entities. I’m an active member of the Association of Threat Assessment Association (ATAP) and have been on the front lines of implementing violence threat assessment as a preventive practice in schools.

If you’d like to learn more about what Youth Risk Prevention Specialists can do to help make your school safer, simply click here for service descriptions and training outlines, or here to contact me with your specific needs. I’m happy to provide more information or answer any questions you may have.

 

 

Managing Someone Who Poses a Threat

how to manage someone who poses a threat
We’ve talked a lot about violence threat assessment in the past. Today, I want to talk about threat management. How, exactly, should we proceed when managing someone who poses a threat to our school’s safety?

There is no strategy that will work in every situation, or every time. We must address the specifics of each situation and the needs of everyone involved to ensure the safest outcome.

I can tell you that there are some things we always want to attend to when managing a threat.

  1. First, we need to ensure the safety of everyone involved. This means investigating the threat, notifying targets and implementing strategies to keep everyone in our buildings safe.
  2. We want to be aware of any existing connections and violence inhibitors that we can leverage to help a person of concern find alternatives to violence. This may take the form of contacting and partnering with family members, school staff or mental health providers who have a positive relationship with the subject.
  3. We want to understand the person’s perception of a situation or possible grievance, and help him or her to see that we will work to solve it to the best of our ability.
  4. We want to treat the subject with dignity, which may preserve the last bit of what is holding him or her together.
  5. If we must force a student out of school in the form of a suspension or expulsion, we need to do so with kindness and compassion, and keep the lines of communication open so we are not severing the relationship.
  6. We want to be mindful of the subject’s social media presence and communication with others, and monitor him/her for any hint of a violent mindset. This may continue for an extended period of time .
  7. If we are concerned about a student who is currently attending school, we may have to institute labor-intensive procedures such as daily check-ins or backpack checks, and even constant supervision, if necessary.
  8. It’s imperative that we continue to communicate with those in our school about any words, behavior or incidents indicative of movement toward violence in a person of concern. When we don’t do this, it’s much easier for each incident to appear isolated, and to lose sight of the true picture of the threat posed by an individual of concern. We must keep connecting the dots for each situation of concern.

To learn more about how I work with schools set up their own threat assessment teams, click here.

 

End of School Year Vigilance

With everything else on educators’ plates right now, we need to remind ourselves to practice end of school year vigilance. The spring months typically have the highest number of school violence incidents, and we have seen an increase in school threats over the past few weeks. While many are transient with no substantial plan, we must evaluate each one to ensure safety.

What to watch for

If you’re not sure what you should be looking for, you can refresh your memory with this list of warning signs.

We also want to watch for students who may dread the summer months and loss of structure and support that school provides. Unfortunately, the spring and summer months are also host to a high number of suicides. If you’d like to send some information out to parents along with other end-of-year correspondence, here are two options for you: warning signs of suicide and tips for parents.

If you find yourself with some free time, and are yearning to learn something new this summer, Youth Risk Prevention Specialists offers a free online school safety course that takes about 20 minutes to complete. A longer, more in-depth course is available for just $15, and takes about 2 hours to complete.

I want to thank you for all you do to help keep kids safe throughout the school year. I wish you an amazing, relaxing summer.

School Safety on Election Day

vote

The 2016 election is coming up in just two weeks, and many of your facilities will be used as polling places. Have you considered how you will secure them? While I can’t help get your preferred candidate into office, I can help with a few safety suggestions. Here are some things to consider:

Will workers, volunteers, and voters be restricted to accessing only certain areas of the building, unoccupied by students?

Are restrooms available near the polling area to keep visitors from requesting access to other parts of the building?

Will you or your local government provide additional security on election day?

What types of background checks will election workers and volunteers complete?

Will voters have a designated parking area, separate from parent, staff and student parking and away from student drop-off and pick-up?

Do your surveillance cameras cover the area to be used for polling? Will someone monitor them regularly?

If your school will be in session on election day, and it is a designated polling place, planning ahead will alleviate a lot of potential headaches on November 8.

Survey Update:

You may recall that I recently requested input from readers about safety challenges and needs. My objective was to learn about the areas of safety that concern you most, so I can focus future articles on them.

I regret to say that I received too few responses to provide any meaningful direction. So, moving forward, please feel free to contact me at any time with requests for posts on specific school safety topics. If you are wondering about the best way to handle something, chances are good that someone else is, too.

 

Your Top School Safety Needs

I want to hear from you!

Here’s your chance to help other schools, by telling me about your school’s safety success and challenges. It will take less than 2 minutes to complete the survey, and your input will provide ideas and answers for all of my readers. My goal is to help facilitate school safety improvements for everyone in an informed, efficient manner. If there are topics about which you’d like more information, let me know and I’ll devote future posts to them.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XG9V8T7

The survey link will be active until Friday, October 14.

Look for results next week!

Please feel free to share this email and survey link with others.

 

School Safety Mandates

Each state in the U.S. has a variety of school safety mandates in place. Are you familiar with the safety requirements of your state?

This is important information that can help protect your school district from a liability lawsuit in the event that an accident, injury or death were to occur. Providing documentation of compliance with all safety mandates will protect you enormously.

To help you with this, the REMS (Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools) Technical Assistance Center has created this simple tool that takes only seconds to use. I encourage you to take a moment right now to click on your state and review whether your district is in compliance. It could save you a lot of time and trouble down the road.

If you need help with any aspect of meeting school safety mandates, I’m happy to offer pointers. Feel free to contact me here.

Exciting News for Schools

Special Announcement-2

Exciting announcement for you and your school district!

In response to requests from schools across the country, I have developed a safety tool with enormous benefits for your school.

You can now train your entire staff on your schedule, at a fraction of the cost of in-person training, while getting the very same content provided on-site to schools nationwide.

To enjoy special early-bird savings, with access to the training for one full year, simply click on the link below for your preferred plan:

Individual 

Small Group (25-50)

Medium Group (51-100)

Large Group (101+)

These savings won’t last, so register your team today!

Free Online School Safety Course

The free online school safety course, SafeAware© Increase Your School’s Safety in 5 Easy Steps is now open for registration! This course will take you through 5 easy-to-implement strategies to significantly improve your school’s safety in just one day. The course takes less than 30 minutes to complete and includes downloadable handouts and links to additional resources. You can access it here.

Later this year, I’ll be launching these additional SafeAware© school safety courses:

  • Everyday School Safety for All Staff
  • School Crisis & Safety Plan Development
  • Youth Suicide Prevention
  • Suicide & Violence Prevention for Parents
  • Training Students to Break the Code of Silence
  • Introduction to Violence Threat Assessment

If there are specific topics you’d like to see offered in future courses, I’d love to hear from you. Simply contact me here with your suggestions.

Have a fantastic summer!

An Interview with: Michele Gay

Michele GayMichele Gay is the Executive Director of Safe and Sound Schools. Together, she and Alissa Parker founded Safe and Sound Schools to educate parents and school staff members about the most effective safety practices, in a format that is both easily understandable and immediately usable. Michele and Alissa work jointly with experts in the field of school safety to continually curate information and update the free resources and tools on the organization’s website at http://www.safeandsoundschools.org. They speak to school safety stakeholders around the country about their experiences, and the simple changes schools can implement to create safer environments. Both Michele and Alissa are dedicated to advocating for greater school safety in honor of their beloved daughters, Josephine and Emilie, who died tragically in the 2012 attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Michele sat down to talk with me about the amazing work and mission of Safe and Sound Schools.

Michele, how would you describe your role within Safe and Sounds Schools?

My official title is Executive Director. With a brand new nonprofit, that means I wear all sorts of hats. I work with our contributors, select resources for the website and make them usable in a practical way, speak with communities across the country and provide training for school leaders and stakeholders on our Straight-A Safety model and the ways in which they can make their schools safer.

What were the initial goals for Safe and Sound Schools?

Our initial goals were to synthesize the best practices in school safety and boil them down for the everyday user. They need to be formatted so any stakeholder – parent, teacher, custodian, bus driver – can pick them up and understand them. They must to be easy to use because all of these people are already wearing many hats. I find that I’m using my experience as a pre-school and elementary school teacher to help me simplify all of these concepts so others can easily learn them.

What kind of movement toward those goals have you seen since the organization was created?

We have grown, and will continue to grow. We started out sharing our experiences as keynote speakers and recently began providing on-site training for communities on how they can implement safety improvement practices in their schools. We have some wonderful contributors who are school safety and subject-matter experts in their fields. When we originally reached out to them we weren’t sure whether they would want to be involved. Their response was overwhelming. We have learned so much from our team of advisors and contributors that we can pass on to others. We learn from each community we visit and it charges us up to see that there are people out there who get it, and are working really hard to bring practical solutions to the forefront.

How many people are involved with the organization, both staff and volunteers?

There are 8 volunteer board members and 4 part-time staff members, plus myself. We have a team of 15 advisors and professional contributors that includes firefighters, psychologists, school resource officers, police, education specialists, and school safety experts.

Do you have an estimate of the number of schools that have made changes as a result of your organization’s mission and outreach?

I would love to have that information! Our new website is going to have the capability to track the number of people who download our materials, so that will help. But, of course, it’s not easy to learn how they’ve been used or shared. I have done 25 speaking engagements each year and will continue to do those, along with the new training. Alissa also serves as a keynote speaker, addressing state and local communities. And, we are now launching a speakers’ bureau of subject matter experts to help us keep up. We are very excited about this.

What have you found to be the greatest challenges in your work with school safety?

So many other issues and conversations happen in our society and schools, that safety sometimes gets overshadowed. We are working hard to educate people about the ways in which school safety is do-able. The growth in this area is slow and steady. We are still working to educate about what school safety actually is. It’s more than physical security and bars on windows. Many things can be done by anyone to improve school safety. This is also an emotional subject, and once we go to an emotional place, we can lose our ability to think practically. Our response is to provide practical tools that are easy to implement.

 Is there anything else you would like my readers to know?

I would like your readers to know that we are a work in progress and we will continue to grow. We provide safety resources, we visit communities to share what we know, and we learn from others. This helps to connect us, and connecting us all makes us just that much more powerful. Everything on the website is free and will stay that way. You can help educate other parents and educators by sharing our resources, liking our Facebook page, following us on Twitter and signing up for newsletters and notifications on our website.

I want to express my sincere appreciation for Michele’s time and dedication. Most importantly, I want to thank both Michele and Alissa for their work as tireless school safety educators and advocates. For a closer look at the compelling forces behind Safe and Sound Schools and its mission to help everyday folks implement the simple safety practices advocated by experts, please watch this brief video interview with Michele and Bob Gay and Alissa and Robbie Parker. Be sure to check out all of the amazing resources at http://www.safeandsoundschools.org/more-resources-safety-for-schools/.