10 Tips to Help Improve Overall School Safety
The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) School Safety Group, out of the U.S. Department of Justice, recently released Ten Essential Actions to Improve School Safety, which provides action items that schools/school districts can do to help mitigate and prevent violence on campus.
- Comprehensive School Safety Assessment. The safety and risk assessment plan should be developed by a multidisciplinary/interagency team and should be reviewed and updated annually. This school safety assessment should identify threats with the highest probability of occurring, potential consequences of those threats, and what vulnerabilities the school or district has in regards to those threats. Most school safety plans often fail to include:
- Family reunification.
- Emergency mass notification.
- Identifying mental health resources (ahead of time).
- Monitoring and managing of media released to the public.
- The possibility of a contagion effect (within the school district) following a student suicide or mass casualty attack (anywhere in the nation).
- Campus, Building, and Classroom Security. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for school security and safety, so schools/school districts should first identify gaps in their campus, building, and classroom security. Students should also provide input, rank vulnerabilities, and offer solutions. At a minimum, school should have:
- AEDs and stop-the-bleed kits.
- Video surveillance.
- Access control systems.
- Building and classroom number systems or other methods to clearly identify locations.
- Classroom doors that lock from the inside.
- Uncluttered and secure spaces in every classroom where if projectiles were fired into the classroom from outside, students would be safe.
- Coverings for door glass and windows that prevent an assailant from seeing into the classroom.
- Drills. Drills help set clear expectations of everyone’s role during an emergency (armed assailant, fire, weather emergency, etc.). Schools/school districts should debrief after each drill to identify areas for improvement and challenges encountered.
- Coordination with Emergency Personnel. Even with a school resource officer (SRO), an active shooter or other critical incident will elicit a response from state and local law enforcement as well as emergency medical services. Joint training, coordination, and advanced planning are essential to ensure the combined response is fast and effective.
- School-Based Law Enforcement. There have been numerous examples of SROs intervening to prevent and quickly mitigate an active school shooting. SROs should be specially trained and selected. Not every school/school district can provide an SRO so they could consider working with local law enforcement, or even a private security company, for support.
- Mental Health Resources. Supporting the mental and emotional health of students, and possibly preventing violence, is an area schools need to focus on. Schools/school districts should provide students with access to qualified professionals (counselors, psychologists, and social workers) who can identify emerging problems and, if necessary, act immediately to intervene.
- Anonymous Reporting Systems. These systems have been proven effective in not only identifying and communicating potential targeted violence in schools but also identifying suicidal threats. Intervene before violence occurs, and ensure adequate follow on reported threats.
- Behavior Threat Assessment and Management Team. This team should include multidisciplinary members including school mental health professionals (such as a school counselor, school psychologist, or social worker), administrators, teachers, and SROs or a member of law enforcement. Once a threat is received (or information about a threat), that information needs to be assessed and managed by the team. Ideally, the team should thoroughly evaluate and validate the information, then develop a plan for addressing the threat(s).
- Social Media Monitoring. While most students post non-threatening social media posts, some posts elicit harm (against the school, against others, against the student themself, etc.). Monitoring social media is a good way to identify threats and at-risk behaviors, including cyberbullying.
- School Climate. Schools should take steps to create cultures that are inclusive, safe, and welcoming, and encourage positive connections between students and staff. Measures to help create a positive school climate include bullying and violence prevention, bystander intervention programs, social emotional learning programs, and training students, staff, and faculty on how to recognize signs of suicide, self-harm and violence.
How SafeSchools Can Help Improve School Safety
Our free, on-demand webinar presented by Dr. School Poland, provides School Violence Prevention Strategies and Lessons from the Frontlines. View webinar recording.
Our SafeSchools Online Training System includes an Emergency Management category and Security category of courses that can help train your staff on important school safety topics, including:
- Active Shooter
- Crime Prevention through Physical Security
- Crisis Response and Recovery
- Emergency Operations Planning: Building the Plan
- Emergency Operations Planning: Implementing the Plan
- Family Reunification
- Incident Command Systems
- Managing the Aftermath of Tragedy
- Safety Basics for Security Staff
- School Intruders
- School Violence: Identifying & Addressing
- Tactical Site Surveys
- Threat Assessment
- Visual Weapons Screening
Other related courses include:
- AED (Automated External Defibrillators)
- Bullying: Recognition & Response
- Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
- First Aid
- Self-Injury and Cutting
- Severe Bleeding Response: Wound Packing and Tourniquet Use
- Student Mental Health
- Youth Suicide: Awareness, Prevention and Postvention
Did you know that the SafeSchools Training system also offers courses for students? Course topics cover Bullying & Cyberbullying, Depression, Digital Citizenship, Good Decision Making, Healthy Relationships, Resolving Disagreements, Stress & Anxiety, Youth Suicide, and many more.
Anonymous Reporting System
We also offer our SafeSchools Alert Tip Reporting System, that allows students, staff and parents to confidentially report safety concerns/tips to school administration 24/7/365 via mobile app, text, phone, email, and website. Administrators are immediately notified of every tip, and can easily track and manage incidents in our web-based system. Districts around the country are using our tip reporting system to help identify and address potentially dangerous safety threats and concerns.
- Cherokee County School District
- Fannin County School System
- Monroe Public Schools
- Mason City Schools
For a free trial of SafeSchools Training or SafeSchools Alert, please fill out this form.