Written By: Brad Campbell | February 6, 2023
From natural disasters to bullying and violence in schools, there are many potential threats to the safety of students and their teachers while on campus.
In order to foster a comfortable, secure learning environment, where both students and faculty feel safe every day, it’s important to implement a comprehensive school safety plan.
Although it’s nearly impossible to completely avoid all potential threats to the safety of students and staff, having school safety plans in place makes it easier to prepare for and respond to a range of different emergency situations that can affect schools.
School safety plans are formal plans that address the prevention of, response to, and recovery from a variety of different emergency scenarios.
Examples of school emergencies that these types of plans should cover include:
School safety plans should be developed and implemented in collaboration with local law enforcement and the entire local school community, including parents of K-12 students.
In fact, the majority of states actually require by law that schools or districts have some type of school safety plan in place, and that these plans are crafted in partnership with local law enforcement.
Depending on where your school is located, your state might also have specific guidelines about what your school safety plan should include. This information can be found on the department of education website for your state.
The federal government also provides general guidelines regarding foundational elements of school safety plans, which we’ll go over below.
In general terms, a threat assessment is a professional security and risk assessment. This type of evaluation looks at any property’s perceived and actual threat levels and its existing security measures to identify vulnerabilities and make recommendations on how to mitigate them.
When it comes to school safety, a professional threat assessment will gather information regarding all possible and likely threats to the safety of people at that school.
This can include broad threats, like the possibility of a severe storm, and highly specific ones, such as the threat of violence from specific individuals.
A school threat assessment should also evaluate the school’s climate in terms of how safe students and staff feel on campus due to certain risk factors.
For example, things like bullying and the presence of gangs present risks of school violence and contribute to feelings of insecurity on school grounds.
A comprehensive school threat assessment also includes a site assessment, during which a security expert inspects the facilities and recommends ways to improve safety and security.
These recommendations might include things like:
Any school safety plan should have a designated individual or group of individuals dedicated to the implementation of school safety and security policies.
This person or group of people will be responsible for coordinating with external collaborators, such as local law enforcement, coordinating training for staff and students, and distributing communications related to school emergency plans, among other things.
Having reporting systems in place, especially anonymous ones, make it easier for schools and districts to receive information about potential threats and respond to them in order to prevent a crisis.
For example, you could add an anonymous tip page to your school’s website or develop a district-wide reporting app that students, parents, teachers, and community members can all access.
In many cases of school violence, a tip and prompt action is all it takes to prevent a tragedy from unfolding.
Emergency action plans, also known as emergency operations plans and emergency response plans, address what specific actions to take before, during, and after certain school safety incidents occur.
These response plans should be based on each school’s or school district’s unique needs and the potential emergency scenarios that could unfold (which can be determined by a threat assessment).
For instance, schools in Florida all need emergency action plans for hurricanes, while schools in the Midwest should have tornado response plans in place.
There are some emergency situations that all schools should have response plans for, such as active threat scenarios.
Once you’ve developed emergency action plans, it’s important to actually train people on them and hold drills to practice them, so they go as smoothly as possible during a real crisis.
Make sure to thoroughly train teachers and all other school staff on these plans and ensure everyone knows what their specific role is during an emergency.
You should hold drills, such as fire drills, earthquake drills, and school lockdown drills, at least twice a year, near the beginning of each new school session. This gives both students and staff an opportunity to practice crisis responses.
While prevention of and response to school emergencies are both very important, it’s also important not to overlook the recovery portion of your school safety plan.
The recovery component should address how to recover physically, psychologically, emotionally, financially, and academically after any crisis.
This includes helping students and staff work through any trauma they may have experienced, and getting teachers and students back in the classroom and learning as soon as it’s appropriate and possible to do so.
Planning goes a long way towards preventing, responding to, and recovering from school emergency scenarios, but school safety plans often don’t do a lot to improve the physical security of students and staff.
Implementing the right physical security upgrades, such as installing retrofit polycarbonate security glazing, can protect schools and their occupants against everything from flying storm debris to active assailants.
Riot Glass, LLC is dedicated to helping schools and school districts become more safe and secure for everyone.
Contact us today for more information about how we can help supplement your school safety plan with our security glazing products.