School Safety Planning: PREVENTION
PREVENTION | Protection | Mitigation | Response | Recovery | Rebuilding
In the world of school safety there are six different, yet equally important parts, when holistically applied create an adequate school safety plan to efficiently protect America’s children and our country’s educators while physically located on the grounds of their educational environment – and furthermore, accounting for each category of safety planning can assure proper protection against future liability concerns that a school district might have after a life-threat emergency has taken place. As you can see from the information above those six parts are PREVENTION, PROTECTION, MITIGATION, RESPONSE, RECOVERY & REBUILDING. For the purpose of our 1st installment in our series dedicated to SCHOOL SAFETY PLANNING we will be breaking down the prevention aspect of properly securing your educational environment for the inevitable threats that can take place on school property.
For the purpose of this closer examination into the world of school safety planning it’s best if we start with a working definition for a life-threat emergency (LTE). www.TheFreeDictionary.com defines a “life-threat” as causing fear or anxiety by threatening great harm; a dangerous operation; a grave situation; a grave illness; grievous bodily harm; a serious wound; a serious turn of events and an “emergency” as a serious situation or occurrence that happens unexpectedly and demands immediate action or a condition of urgent need for action or assistance. Taken together we can define a LTE as “A serious situation or occurrence that happens unexpectedly with the potential for grievous bodily harm demanding immediate action and intervention.”
A few examples of a LTE are an active-killer situation or an act of terrorism, a suicide on school grounds, a drive-by shooting, the use of explosive materials within a school, excessive violence towards a person or group of school children or staff, a fire that causes grave damage, and also a natural disaster that impacts the daily function of an otherwise normal school day.
...Taken together we can define a LTE as “a condition of urgent need for action or assistance causing fear or anxiety by threatening great harm.”
At the root of all LTE’s there are a couple underlying motivators and factors: crime and/or fear. The motivation behind why someone would want to instigate and carryout a purposeful LTE is a topic for another day. Today we will learn how to prepare for, and do our best to prevent an LTE from striking at the heart of your community.
When we take a closer look into what can be done to prevent violent crimes and LTE’s from reaching the doorsteps of an educational environment we must look at what is being done nationally to combat the evil from growing inside our schools:
1. The use or addition of School Resource Officers – The use of School Resource Officers is a highly debated topic today but few people understand the arguments from both sides of the issue. SRO’s are highly effective at mitigating daily acts of crime and violence and the officers lend mightily in acting as mentors and confidants to children in schools but studies have shown their non-effectiveness in regularly mitigating serious life-threat emergencies. The debate of whether or not we should have an SRO in every building should not be focused around their added protection during an active-shooter event, which has been proven to be minimal because of real-life data unable to be proven yet, instead we should promote their value and use with an expanded mindset of importance where they not only perform routine safety and risk assessments of their educational environments (saving millions of dollars nationally) but also be in charge of performing preventative student based safety programs designed to prevent violence and crime in a more holistic way (a cost effective means to roll out preventative safety measures nationally).
2. The implementation of a community based tip-line – The benefits of a tip-line in which students, teachers, counselors and community members can call in, text info to and access through an online portal to report suspicious and malicious behavior anonymously is vital for any educational environment. These tip-lines cut down on the number of “student on student” violent incidents and suicides by getting to troubled kids before they have a chance to act out or act and hurt another or themself. Anonymous tip-lines also help combat the issue of at-risk youth's signs of despair going unnoticed by educational officials and law enforcement officers before it’s too late to mitigate a future incident of violence.
3. The implementation of a youth assistance and crime prevention program – These programs are designed to work with elementary aged children for the purpose of positively impacting their views of authority and spearheading an effort to combat drug and alcohol abuse later in life. We are all aware of the D.A.R.E. program and many of you reading this probably went through its ranks when you were kids; this is an example of a youth assistance & crime prevention program. However, there are many groups out there taking these programs to the next level and working to address a myriad of issues facing our youth today that the D.A.R.E. program hasn’t adequately accounted for. These programs need to address the issues that each grade-level faces which are unique to their age, and the program needs to be written and facilitated with the mental ability of the children in mind for greatest positive impact to take place.
4. Proper staff training to spot warning signs and indicators of future violence – Spotting warning signs in their students has become of paramount importance for educators today and the training they're getting in this realm cannot be left out of an educator’s ongoing educational requirements. It is a crazy world we’re living in today where our teachers have to be as vigilant to the effects of psychological trauma in their kids as well as working equally as hard to educate their young minds, but it’s the world we’re living in and we need to do better with staff trainings to properly address how to spot warning signs in our youth before the child starts to spiral out of control. Many local law enforcement agencies and social worker groups can aid in helping your teachers learn to be able to spot warning signs in their students and how to take action around reporting it and following up efficiently and compassionately.
5. A competent school counselor and/or psychologist who is in touch with the threats facing their children at home and while at school – The days of having a school counselor only worry about fights and arguments in their school is long gone. Today, our schools need trained professionals to deal with all of the issues that face America's youth at school and away from the protection of their classrooms. If at all possible, it is important to have multiple school psychologists on rotation throughout your school system because different kids will open up differently depending on the age, sex, race and authority style of who is currently on staff. Also, children today are bringing much more baggage with them into the classroom than ever before because of the rise of social media and violence on TV, in movies and at their fingertips through gaming consoles. Kids today are not only potential victims for neglect at home but victims of experiencing a dissociative lifestyle due to the lack of complete family units represented within their home. As the world progresses into the age of virtual reality it will be more important than ever to have more school psychologists on staff to combat a future where it will be harder and harder for kids to have a firm grip on reality.
...Many local law enforcement agencies and social worker groups can aid in helping your teachers learn to be able to spot warning signs in their students...
This list of preventative measures does not represent everything that can be done to prevent future acts of violence in your schools but the combination of these categories in practice must be taken into consideration if you desire the safest learning environment possible for your children. As parents you should know if your school has these safety prevention pieces in place, and should be asking “why not” if they aren’t currently accounted for. As educational administrators, the information and programs relating to the aforementioned preventative measures are available for you to tighten up your school safety planning as much as needed, and if you choose not to account for each piece above you will most likely be liable in the court of law if a future life-threat emergency were to strike your district and you neglected to act in a comprehensively preventative manner beforehand.