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Evaluating your school safety plan

10/23/2019

The two words in education that have the power to stop parents, administrators, and teachers in their tracks are school safety. It’s an issue everyone takes seriously and increasingly districts and schools are making sure they have a school safety plan to cover the wide range of safety concerns that can occur in schools. According to a 2019 study by the Education Commission of the States:

  • At least 43 states and the District of Columbia require a school plan in statue or regulation
  • 29 of those states require law enforcement agencies to be involved in creating these plans
  • 13 states call for a physical safety audit of school facilities
  • 42 states require schools hold safety or security drills

The commission website also includes certification requirements for school resource officers in each state and a breakdown of states’ rules of who can and cannot carry a firearm in schools.

Update your emergency operations plans yearly

These school Emergency Operations Plans (school EOPs) exist not only to try to keep students and staff safe from any crime or hazardous situations, they also delineate how staff should act during various safety incidents. While your school/district probably has an existing plan, it should be updated every year. Luckily, there’s a vast amount of help online to assist with this work. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) created a 75-page document for the Department of Education that walks leaders through the necessary steps to create a plan, from forming a team to what every basic plan should include. This PDF covers everything from active shooter situations to how schools can share information with the public while abiding by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). FEMA has also published a sample school emergency operations plan.

According to the FEMA document, the focus on all districts and schools having a school EOP was driven by Directive (PPD) 8 which describes the nation’s approach to preparedness.  It has evolved based on lessons learned from terrorist attacks, hurricanes, school incidents and other experiences. PPD-8 defines preparedness around five areas: Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response and Recovery.

 5 steps to preparedness

  • Prevention means the capabilities necessary to avoid, deter, or stop an imminent crime or threatened or actual mass casualty incident. Prevention is the action schools take to prevent a threatened or actual incident from occurring.
  • Protection means the capabilities to secure schools against acts of violence and manmade or natural disasters. Protection focuses on ongoing actions that protect students, teachers, staff, visitors, networks, and property from a threat or hazard.
  • Mitigation means the capabilities necessary to eliminate or reduce the loss of life and property damage by lessening the impact of an event or emergency. It also means reducing the likelihood that threats and hazards will happen.
  • Response means the capabilities necessary to stabilize an emergency once it has already happened or is certain to happen in an unpreventable way; establish a safe and secure environment; save lives and property; and facilitate the transition to recovery.
  • Recovery means the capabilities necessary to assist schools affected by an event or emergency in restoring the learning environment.

The National Association of School Principals estimates that it takes about four hours and multiple meetings to review an existing school safety plan. The organization’s detailed framework lays out how to divide the work between various groups and includes advice on how to run simulation exercises to “test” your plan against a hypothetical scenario.

Supporting your school safety plan

While simulations of hypothetical scenarios can be informative, a top goal of an EOP is to stop an incident from happening in the first place.  Impero’s student safety software is a step in helping to stop incidents from happening. The software helps keep students safe by providing an additional layer of monitoring in addition to traditional blocking and filtering and it provides a window into student online activity and discussion that can help determine when a prevention plan needs to be put in place. Learn more about our student safety software by booking a demonstration here.

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