School safety is a process, not a product. It takes a village – students, parents, teachers, Student Resource Officers (SROs), custodians, lunch ladies, counselors—everyone has to be involved.
Safe and Sound Schools’ comprehensive school safety framework identifies six key components to school safety and security: mental and behavioral health; health and wellness; physical safety and security; culture, climate, and community; leadership, law, and policy; and operations and emergency management. But it’s not about being the expert in all six, but rather partnering with the experts like the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS). Together, we’ve developed a list of five questions everyone should ask about safety and security.
1. Does Your School Have a Current School Safety Policy?
Your school’s safety and security policy should involve an emergency operations plan (EOP) and security plan. Comprehensive plans—and the policies and procedures to implement them—form the foundation of school safety and security. Without proper policies and procedures in place, it is impossible to successfully use security technology and other security measures, regardless of how advanced they may be. Effective policies and procedures alone can mitigate risks, and there are often no costs associated with implementing them.
The PASS Guidelines include essential security-specific policies and processes, broken down by the five layers of school safety and security (district-wide, property, parking lot, building, and classroom/interior; see Guidelines for details).
2. What Drills Are in Place to Help Students and Staff Respond to Emergencies?
As the widespread success of fire drills has demonstrated, drills are critical to the success of your school’s emergency response both for students and teachers. The need for “lockdown” drills has grown due to the unique circumstances of an active shooter event. Whether in a school, business, or other public space, best practices now dictate having a lockdown protocol as the major component of an effective safety plan when escape is not possible. Schools should keep the age of their students in mind when designing exercises and training. The PASS Guidelines include recommendations for how to conduct lockdown drills, as well as tips on how to design a drill that works best for your school.
3. Does Your School Have a Team Assigned Specifically to Student Safety?
Your school should have a safety and security team that comprises, at minimum, the following key stakeholders to the K-12 environment:
- security director;
- school administrator;
- security/systems integrator (or consultant);
- IT director;
- local police and fire officials; and
- a school-based health care professional.
For larger or more complex projects, it’s best to have a hardware consultant on board as well.
4. Have School Administrators and Security Personnel Been Trained on Crisis Management?
Teachers and staff are essential to a successful emergency response. Staff should act on their own in an emergency when direction is not available, and—at a minimum—be trained on:
- What to do in an emergency;
- How to make independent decisions and act on them immediately;
- What strategies and options they can use under various circumstances;
- Who is responsible for what, and their individual roles; and
- How to communicate with police, first responders, and others responding to the emergency.
5. Do Students Know How to Report Suspicious Incidents?
Ideally, a counselor or mental health professional has spoken with students about identifying red flags and what to do about it. Schools should also seriously consider anonymous reporting systems, which have deterred school violence in the past. The PASS Guidelines provide guidance on how to best implement anonymous tip reporting processes.
First established in 2014, the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) brings together expertise from the education, public safety and industry communities to develop and support a coordinated approach to making effective use of proven security practices specific to K-12 environments, and informed decisions on security investments.