School safety has always been a concern for parents, students, teachers and administrators. However, in the 21st century it’s become a hot topic in both political and public arenas. It’s important to review your school safety plan regularly to make sure the policies you have in place are effective enough to help keep students safe. I outline steps below that will help you evaluate your current school safety plan to determine if it needs updating or changes.
Review your plan.
- Review your plan annually.
- Review your plan after a school shooting.
- Review your plan after a school evacuation.
- Review your plan after a lockdown.
- Review your plan after a bomb threat or suspicious package incident, even if the threat was empty (i.e., no explosives were found).
In each case, ask yourself: Did our staff and students follow the plan? Did everyone know their role? Did we all make it out safely? What could have gone better? How can we improve our response next time to be more prepared and efficient in an emergency situation?
Consult with your governing body.
It’s important to consult with your governing body. The governing body includes anyone who has a say in how you run things at your school, from the principal to the parent-teacher association. They are an essential part of creating a good safety plan because they can help you determine what should be included in it and whether or not it needs updating.
It’s also important that you work closely with these people so that they understand how serious this issue is; this will make them more likely to provide support when the time comes for implementation.
Consider staff training needs.
When updating your school safety plan, consider the training needs of staff. It’s important that everyone who will be responsible for carrying out the procedures in your school safety plan is trained on those policies and procedures.
It may be helpful to take a look at any previous training that has been done within your district or organization, including:
- Training on the new plan as it has been revised
- Training on any new procedures or policies created by the update process
- Drills related to these updated plans and policies
Evaluate your lockdown procedure.
A lockdown procedure is a set of directives and procedures that are meant to guide an institution—or, in this case, your school or company—through the event of an active shooter. You may already have one in place, but if not, it’s time to get started.
Flip the classroom. In many cases, classrooms have designated areas where students can hide from danger; if you have these kinds of spaces available on your campus (for example, under desks), use them!
Practice lockdown drills regularly with all members of staff present so there’s no confusion about who should do what when it comes time for real action; ideally each person should know where they need to go and what they need to do before each drill begins so they’re ready immediately when called upon during a real emergency situation such as gunfire nearby.”
Explore concealed carry.
In the wake of the Parkland shooting and subsequent school shootings, many schools are considering whether to allow armed teachers in their classrooms. While some states have laws that allow concealed carry, others prohibit it outright—and even if you live in a state where it’s allowed, your school may not have a policy that allows concealed carry. It’s important to note that most teachers have not been trained or certified to use firearms and don’t have the kind of training police officers receive. This is why I recommend exploring other options first—like hiring an armed security guard or armed school resource officer (SRO).
Examine the need for armed security and school resource officers.
School resource officers (SROs) are law enforcement officers who are assigned to a school, but not necessarily employed by the district. Their main responsibility is safety and security on campus.
SROs can have a positive impact on school climate, as they act as a liaison between the student body and police department. They help establish a positive relationship with students, which allows them to maintain order and discipline without having to rely solely on harsh punishments. I believe every school at every level should have an SRO.
Consider a single point of entry and exit.
A single point of entry and exit can help prevent the spread of a fire, biological hazard or chemical hazard. This can be especially useful when there are multiple entrances to your school. In the event of an emergency, it’s important that everyone knows where they should go and how to get out safely. If you have many doors in your building, consider which areas are most likely to be used during an emergency and make sure those areas have easy access for all students and staff members.
Reviewing your plan, consulting with stakeholders, evaluating procedures and considering new ideas can help you determine if your school safety plan needs updating.
Review your plan. Consider what has changed over the past five years. Determine if there are new risks at the school that need to be addressed in the update process, such as increased student enrollment or changes to physical security systems (e.g., cameras). If so, include these in your review of the existing threat assessment policies and procedures section of your safety plan.
Consult with your governing body about updates and changes that should be made to policies or procedures that could affect their work as a board member (e.g., active shooter protocols).
Consider staff training needs based on updated policies and procedures from reviewing an updated safety plan (e.g., training for staff members on how to respond when there is an active shooter on campus).
There are many ways to update your school safety plan. A good start is reviewing existing policies, making sure you have all the right procedures in place and then following up with students and staff. This article provided some tips on how to do just that as well as information about what other schools around the country have done successfully.