Critical Aspects of Back-to-School Safety

safer school

Summer has flown by, as usual, and school is starting in most parts of the country. Those of us in the West are already in session, and you lucky folks in the Midwest and East have until after Labor Day to savor the last days of summer.

In addition to lesson plans, creating a welcoming classroom, and getting to know our new students, many of us have school safety on our minds. We are charged with one of the most important tasks – keeping children safe while they are with us. This is bound to cause some anxiety as the school year gets underway.

School safety can be broken down into five separate areas, which helps us to put it in perspective.

Prevention – the capabilities necessary to avoid, deter, or stop an imminent crime or threatened or actual mass casualty incident. Prevention is the action schools take to prevent a threatened or actual incident from occurring.

Protection – the capabilities to secure schools against acts of violence and manmade or natural disasters. Protection focuses on ongoing actions that protect students, teachers, staff, visitors, networks, and property from a threat or hazard.

Mitigation – the capabilities necessary to eliminate or reduce the loss of life and property damage by lessening the impact of an event or emergency; reducing the likelihood that threats and hazards will happen.

Response – the capabilities necessary to stabilize an emergency once it has already happened or is certain to happen in an unpreventable way; establish a safe and secure environment; save lives and property; and facilitate the transition to recovery.

Recovery – the capabilities necessary to assist schools affected by an event or emergency in restoring the learning environment and healing from the event. This includes a plan for business continuity.

As you begin the school year, consider doing the following over the next two months:

  • Implement a school climate or safety survey for students, staff and parents, to pinpoint areas that need attention. If you are looking for a survey to use, check out this school climate survey compendium.
  • Foster a sense of belonging in your school community. Celebrate differences and offer a diverse menu of activities, mentoring and connectedness programs, so everyone has a place to call home.
  • Train your staff to identify the signs of those who are struggling so they can support and refer those needing help.
  • Review your crisis response plan. Ideally, this should be done every year, and no less frequently than every 3 years. We learn more every day in this field – you’ll want to be sure your plan reflects current recommendations.
  • Add a new type of drill. If you haven’t done a reverse evacuation or a lockdown drill in awhile, schedule one today. Then, review the results with your staff so everyone can make adjustments if needed.

I’d love to know more about your specific safety challenges and needs. Let me know by typing your safety challenges into this form. I look forward to hearing from you.

Have a great school year!

Your Back-to-School Resource Guide

It’s the beginning of a new school year and you have a lot to do!

I’m a big fan of having research-based strategies and practices at hand, ready to implement when the time is right. I’m also a proponent of low cost training and resources to help school staff members do their jobs more efficiently. The resources below provide both!

Bookmark this resource guide for later use. It’s full of prevention and safety resources for your student services staff and building administrators.

Have a great beginning to the school year!

Special School Safety Opportunity

The school year has started, at very different times across the country. In Albuquerque, where I live, students were back in school on August 11. For many in the Midwest and Eastern regions of the country, the starting bell rang after Labor Day.

This means that many school administrators, student services staff and teachers missed special launch pricing on the Everyday School Safety online training.

I’m going to fix that.

I’m excited to offer an extraordinary price cut on the Individual Plan of this critical safety training. The reason for this, is that I want to make is really easy for you to take a look at the course and decide whether it’s something that could benefit your entire staff.

The first 100 people to enroll in the Everyday School Safety course Individual Plan before September 30 will be able to purchase a full year’s access to the course for just $5.00.

That’s right!

Just $5.00 for a comprehensive, research-based school safety course delivered on your schedule.

The course covers physical safety, school climate, drills, safety plans, suicide prevention, student fights, violence warning signs and an introduction to violence threat assessment. This is the same training I deliver on-site to schools across the country.

Get your $5.00 course by clicking here before September 30 (and before you lose your spot as one of the first 100).

Stay safe!

Wondering what parents can do to make their schools safer?

Woman thinking

Recently, a community member asked me what parents and community members can do to help make their local schools safer. This is a fantastic question! I started to wonder whether other parents and community members might have  the same question, which led to this article.

The following questions are a great place to start.

Ask your school’s administration or a member of the school board the following questions to get the conversation going.

  • What is your policy regarding contacting parents during an emergency?
  • Do you have a policy or protocol that outlines timely warning procedures in the event of a threat to safety?
  • Do you have a family reunification procedure. Has it been practiced?
  • When was the last time the district crisis response plan was reviewed and updated?
  • Are there protocols for response to fire, chemical spill, missing child, intruder, medical emergency, bomb threat, etc….
  • Do all staff members have a plan or flip chart in their offices or classrooms?
  • Have subs and auxiliary staff members been trained?
  • Do classroom doors lock from the inside?
  • What are your entrance security procedures?
  • Do you have a threat assessment team? (many districts still don’t know what this is) If so, have the members been trained in threat assessment?
  • What types of drills are you doing? How frequently?

These questions will get both parents and school staff thinking about what is working well, and what can be done better. To find out where to start with school safety, read this.

Back to School Safety Made Simple

back to school safety, school safety drills, tabletop exercises

Back to school safety: It feels like there are a million things to attend to and safety drills are probably not at the top of your list. Should they be?

Well….the beginning of the year is a time when school staff members often talk with students and parents about expectations, rules and policies. Everyone is fresh and ready to learn. Perhaps this is a good time to talk about drills.

Back to school safety. What next?

A good place to start is by walking through a variety of emergencies during tabletop exercises with key staff and emergency responders. Perhaps you did this over the summer. Next, you will want to conduct full-school drills. The type of drills should be rotated and include fire, chemical spill, evacuation, reverse evacuation, lockdown and any other type of drill pertinent to your specific location (flood, tornado, etc.).

The more you practice, the calmer and less fearful everyone will be. We can’t always control what happens, but we can control how we respond. Practicing drills conditions us to behave in a specific way even when our physiology and cognitive capacity are compromised.

In an emergency, stress causes several things to happen to us physiologically. Our fine motor skills deteriorate, followed by our complex motor skills and cognitive processing ability. We lose some of our problem-solving skills, and if our heart rate gets high enough, we may begin to behave irrationally.

Practicing drills exactly as we want to behave in a true emergency will help tremendously. Remember Pavlov’s dogs? A conditioned response is what we strive for in a fire drill. The alarm sounds and we drop what we’re doing and evacuate. We want to do the same for other emergencies, while still allowing for some decision-making on the part of staff if a situation deviates from what is expected. Your back to school safety efforts will go a long way toward keeping everyone safer.