We are coming to the close of what will go down as perhaps the most challenging school year in history. Part of the ongoing challenge, as well, is uncertainty about the coming school year. Where we will be, and how and when we will move forward all remain to be seen. We have guidance. We can predict measures we will have to take. We can anticipate that, as we proceed, the future will look and feel different. Let’s take a look at some safety-related actions we can take now to carry us into that future. These suggestions are made with district, school, classroom and home activities in mind.
Comprehensive Safety Plans
We know that districts and schools are required to have comprehensive safety plans
, aka emergency operations plans or EOPs. Comprehensive plans consider prevention, mitigation, protection, response and recovery from all threats and hazards, natural, biological, technological or manmade. Remember, each district or school EOP plan is designed for that particular location. Remember, too, that many of the topics which we often approach as separate
(things like behavioral threat assessment
, suicide prevention
, and student health and well-being) should actually to be included
as part of the overarching comprehensive plan. In addition, from our current COVID experience, we now know, first-hand, why continuity of operations planning
(COOP) is also an important component of an EOP/safety plan. Planning is process. Now is a good time to review, revise, and in some cases, develop your EOP with the future in mind.
Planning with students in a virtual classroom, teachers might ask students where they feel most comfortable and safe at home. They might ask who they would call in case of an emergency. They could discuss who they can talk to if they feel threatened, bullied, or sick. As an assignment, they might suggest developing a family emergency contact list and posting it on the refrigerator, or discussing everyday safety precautions such as wearing a bike helmet, not sharing passwords or talking to strangers, or wearing a mask and social distancing when going out.
Assessments are a key component in safety planning. Assessing physical surroundings (sites), the climate and culture, and the capacity to respond will help determine current and future needs. As we approach the hot dry months of summer, a CPTED-walk around now might identify overgrown brush and help deter fires in July. It might uncover previously unknown broken windows or other danger warning signs. Surveying staff to assess their specific skill sets, and identifying those useful resources which remain inside buildings will be useful in assessing needs for the future.
For “assessing” at home, scavenger hunts can be both fun and educational. They can also help families find both those things they may want to do to keep their homes safer; they might even uncover hidden treasures families want to keep and use! Students and families can also build their own home “Go Kits”.
Schools are required to do drills every month that students are in the building. Although students are not in school now, this is a good time to plan drills for the coming year. It is also a good opportunity to virtually discuss those drills with staff. Take some time during virtual staff meetings to talk about why drills are required, how they are carried out, and what changes may be needed. Use scenarios and tabletop exercises (TTX) to simulate actual situations to prepare for.
This can also be done at home. Teachers can share discussion ideas and age appropriate scenarios with families and with their students. Simple starters like, “What would you do if….?” Or “Who would you call if….?” will help. Students might enjoy mapping their house, their yard and even their neighborhood.
As a final safety thought for this month, consider digital safety. Zoom
, Skype and other platforms are filling in for in-person gatherings and meetings; they are becoming our new best ways of connecting with staff and friends. Within that context, the many reports of hacking and other cybercrimes, make ensuring the safety and security of your district and school networks all the more critical. The Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity
page provides information and guidance.
Specifically with educators, parents and students in mind, the Cyberbullying Research Center and StaySafeOnline provide a wide array of resources to help keep kids safe.
For home, links and pages from these sites can be shared with student and families. It is important to keep in mind that most young people are safe and productive online most of the time. However, given the amount of time and number of activities students are online, it is also important for all the adults to be well aware of students’ time and activities, and to be prepared to step in to keep them safe.
Finally, as one last note, there are some changes and some new requirements for the coming school year. Visit the WSSDA Featured Policies
page to see the updated HIB
, the new Gender Inclusive, and Threat Assessment policies and procedures. Visit our SRO Program
page for information on requirements, policy and MOAs.
For more on safety planning and the topics discussed here, email me or visit the School Safety Center web site.