Back-to-school means it is time for curriculum and scheduling tweaks, faculty meetings, parent communications and many other academic preparations. It also is time to review school security, emergency preparedness, supervision and other school safety fundamentals that should be included in your district and/or building safety to-do lists at the start of each year.
A few of those safety fundamentals include:
- Complete your annual review and updating of your emergency and crisis plans (guidelines). This is mandated in some states, but is a best practice even if not mandated in your state.
- Include a school safety component in your back-to-school planning. This must be more than ten minutes on your agenda or a passing reminder to teachers to review their written guideline documents. When was a school safety training presented to your whole staff? Who conducted such a training? Were support staff included? How is your district or building addressing the on-going issue of the school-to-prison-pipeline? Are you giving adequate focus to school safety training and planning, not just security hardware? We continue to read news reports that teacher unions and professional associations are demanding more school safety and behavior management training. A school safety leader understands there is a direct correlation between a safe school building and academic achievement.
- Review with all staff your school’s visitor procedures. Today, perhaps more than ever, how people gain access to our school buildings is a high priority area of concern. While technology can enhance our school safety procedures, it cannot be substituted for a reasonably well-trained and highly-alert staff.
- What is your relationship with local law enforcement and what should you — and your staff — expect from police? How is your local law enforcement agency going to respond to events at your building? In light of recent police shootings across this nation, it is important for school leaders to understand that your police agency may have changed procedures since last school year. It is important for school leaders to feel comfortable in asking questions of local law enforcement: Have your local police gone to two officers in each car due to heightened concerns for officer safety? If so, how will that affect response time to your building? Have the officers received additional defensive/officer safety training that will affect response and how they might approach a threat reported at your school? How have they been trained for approaching and handling young children? What issues, concerns, expectations and understandings exist regarding student arrests? Has your School Resource Officer (SRO) received new directions, training and policies that could impact how SROs interact with students and respond to incidents?
It has never been more important to have a great relationship with your local police department. And this doesn’t simply mean the superintendent or principal meet for coffee a couple times a year with the police chief as your sole source of relationship building. Debriefing of incidents, tough conversations on issues and differences of opinion, and more detailed collaborative efforts can be helpful to your overall preventative and preparedness efforts. (You still can have coffee while discussing them!)
While this list is by no means comprehensive, it is meant to stir conversation in your school to provide the best protection for students and staff alike. There is no better time to do so before our children and school staff return to school well-rested and eager to start a new school year.
Be prepared and be safe!
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