Tag Archive for: school safety

In my roles as a School Resource Officer and within several school safety organizations, I have the benefit of learning about many of the latest tools and technology in school safety. That said, I’m often asked for help sifting through all of them. My advice to those inquiring usually starts like this…

Don’t start shopping yet! Conduct a needs assessment to determine your safety and security priorities. Have a purpose and reason for spending money on tools and technology–if at all. And before making any changes or purchases, be sure that you have these basics of school safety and security covered: visitor management and security.

Visitor Management- When a visitor arrives at your school, do you really know who they are and why they are there? Many parents, visitors, and contractors are allowed access to schools by simply “signing in” at the front office or waving as they enter. With ever-increasing numbers of custody and court orders, as well as potential intruders and sex offenders to consider, busy front office staffs are increasingly utilizing visitor management systems and technologies to verify the identity and safety of visitors before allowing them entry. These systems allow staff to better screen visitors and verify identities with driver’s licenses and ID’s. Today, many schools are carefully re-examining their procedures and protocols surrounding visitor management and looking to tools like these to help.

Physical Security- In my last blog I posted some important questions about security to consider in your school. How do teachers secure classrooms? Do doors lock from the inside or require staff to open the door and lock it from the outside? Where do teachers keep keys during the school day?

Now I have another consideration for you: What if a staff member doesn’t have a key to the classroom for one reason or another?  Is there another way to secure the door? Having to fumble around with keys under stress can take extra time and focus in an emergency. Today, many schools are considering inexpensive devices and tools that can be permanently affixed to doors, enabling occupants to secure the room safely in seconds.  I am convinced that if the classrooms of Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech had been equipped this way, many lives may have been saved.

Three important considerations for tools like these are (1) rapid release capability for egress, (2) first responder accessibility in an emergency and (3) compliance with local fire and safety codes. Referring to your local fire and police departments when considering these tools is imperative.

Another important security consideration today is school windows. Glass windows and doors add sunlight and allow students and staff to see what’s going on outside. However, glass breaks easily, providing quick access to anyone able to break a window and step through it. In recent years, architects have begun reexamining school window design and products have been developed to strengthen existing school windows. Increasingly, schools are installing “films” and “laminates” that prevent window glass from shattering or breaking out, eliminating broken windows as a point of entry to the building.

Two important considerations here are (1) the inclusion of an anchoring system for any existing windows treated with these films and (2) that most of these films are designed to be “shatter-resistant,” not “bullet-proof.”

Other Products: With a national trend toward school safety and security, there are now tools and technologies for everything from social media monitoring of bullying and safety threats, to camera systems accessible by smart phone, to high wind and weather shelters for schools in areas prone to severe weather. Following a thoughtful safety assessment for your school, you will be able to determine if and where you might use some of this new technology.

Other Considerations: Be sure to look at several products of each type to find the best one for your needs; and know that many companies will offer competitive pricing to ensure that you get the right product for your needs. Do your homework on each product and know exactly what you want a particular tool or technology to do. This will help you ask the right questions and get the right tools.

Kevin Quinn currently serves as a School Resource Officer in Arizona, as well as Current President of the Arizona School Resource Officers Association (ASROA), and advisor to Safe and Sound. Kevin is the former president of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO). Contact Kevin at kquinn@asroa.org  and @klah316 on Twitter.

Almost two years have passed now since the morning I packed up my three daughters and sent them off for another day of school in Newtown, Connecticut. Only two were returned to me at the end of that day, December 14, 2012. My youngest daughter, Josephine, was killed in her first grade classroom only moments after I dropped her off at the front door and into the loving arms of one of her teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Since the long, desperate hours we spent that day, waiting to receive the words that would forever change our lives, we’ve learned that she has never really left us. As a family of deep faith—and with the support of family, friends, and others near and far—we have discovered in many ways, how our daughter lives on in this world.

She has called us—all of us—to do better by our children. We cannot take back the choices of the man who attacked and killed Joey, and 25 of her beloved friends and teachers at school that day. Nor can we take back the mistakes and blatant inactions of so many that allowed his profound mental illness to fester to the point of such unprecedented tragedy. But we can, at least, do better by our surviving children and our school communities.

To do better, I joined Alissa Parker, Emilie’s mom, to work for safer schools in America. We founded Safe and Sound in honor of our little girls, dear friends. We dedicated our foundation to educating and empowering school communities, parents, students, teachers, administrators, emergency responders, and mental health professionals to make our schools safer—together.

Safe and Sound is a hub of free school safety resources designed to help guide communities across the country as they too look to “do better” for the precious people who come to grow, learn, and teach in school every day. With a panel of national school safety professionals, we develop and collect best-practice materials and resources. We travel the country visiting, speaking, and teaching in school communities and for professional organizations about school safety.

And in this work we’ve learned a great deal. Though, perhaps nothing more important than this fact: Weparents, educators, leaders, and community membersare not powerless in keeping our children safe in school.

We invite you to join us in honor of the precious children in your life. Visit us often to find a growing wealth of information and experience to help you work for safer schools in your community. Check out our free, printable toolkits, designed to facilitate initiatives in your own school community. Support our mission for safer schools. It’s time to get to work together for safer schools today.

 

When Tragedy Strikes at School: Lessons Learned
Jim Witt, Superintendent of Lake Local Schools, Millbury, Ohio

On June 5, 2010, at approximately 11:30 PM, a level E-F 4 tornado roared through the Toledo, area, causing death and destruction in several outlying suburbs. Our community, eight miles east of Toledo, was particularly hard-hit, with eight resulting deaths .  Additionally, millions of dollars of property destruction occurred, including Lake High School, which was completely destroyed by the storm’s fury.

In the aftermath of the disaster, we began the rebuilding process. With our schools at the heart of the community, this was the starting place for many of our efforts to recover and rebuild the community. We learned many lessons as we debriefed and recovered.

Below, I share the most critical lessons learned by our school community during our time of need:

  • Provide mental health services for survivors of all kinds. We were immediately in touch with mental health experts. They provided us with guidance and information that lessened the pain of loss, trauma, and displacement throughout our community, as well as providing trauma-informed support for responding personnel.
  • Limit the size of the decision-making group. We created a key group of administrators and board members, each assigned a specific area of responsibility for the duration of intervention, debriefing, and recovery.
  • Choose a guiding principle. We used the litmus test of “What is best for kids?” as we encountered difficult choices.
  • Hire a public adjustor to help with the insurance claim. The firm we hired was incredibly helpful with our claim. To this day, I believe this was the best money spent on our entire project.
  • Make friends with the media. Local, regional, and national news outlets can be very beneficial to an organization during a time of need. We made a point to accommodate the requests of almost all media; they provided us with very positive coverage throughout the process.
  • Use humor to get through the most difficult times.  A difficult undertaking, to rebuild a campus and a community requires untold hours. A dose of levity — always tasteful and within a professional context — in our regular meetings helped to relieve stress and pressure.

 

 

I was honored in January 2014 to be appointed by the Newtown Board of Education as their new superintendent.
When I had the opportunity to thank the school board, I chose my words carefully and shared with all in attendance that my short and long term plan would be to always respect the past, work hard in the present, and with the entire community, plan the future.
I have used this simple credo to intrinsically challenge my work every day since my arrival to Newtown in April 2014.
I have a passion for children and opportunity.
I feel strongly that the power of outstanding teaching and learning must take place in a safe and secure environment.
I worry about safety daily.
This district must make a difference one student, staff member, and parent at a time.  This district, like all districts, must be able to impact not most or many, but every student, staff member, and parent.
In the ever-changing landscape of Public School America, there remains one constant pertaining to safety:  the absolute best plan is always a plan in progress.  Incrementally, every community must work towards completing their plan; however, I would worry about any district who believes their work is complete.
How well do we know our most complex students and staff? How well do we know our most complex parents and community members? How well do we know our emergency protocols?  How hard have we worked to harden our buildings?
I would reach out to every school leader across the country and ask each of you to never ever get comfortable with safety.  Always challenge all entities of your district with best practice……..all of the time.

Dr. Joseph V. Erardi, Superintendent of Schools, Newtown, CT

Practice.  Practice.  Practice.  This is something that we have all heard since we were young kids.  If you were an athlete, you needed to practice in order to gain proficiency in your sport or prepare for a game.  If you were a musician, you spent hours practicing to excel or prepare for a recital or concert.  As law enforcement officers, we continually train and practice our tactics and skills for when it is needed to protect and serve the citizens in our communities.

The same principle applies to school students and staff and the emergency drills they should be practicing every year.  Telling students and staff how to go into lockdown in the event of an emergency isn’t the same as properly conducting a hands-on drill where teachers practice securing their location while supervising and directing a classroom full of students.  Nerves may be jumping and heart rates may increase a little during the drill, but that’s exactly what needs to happen to ensure competency in the event of an emergency.

Some questions you need to ask yourself regarding a lockdown at your school:

  • How do teachers secure classroom doors?
  • Does the door lock from the inside or do you have to open the door and use a key to lock it from the hallway?
  • Do teachers keep keys with them at all times or are they locked in a bag or desk drawer?
  • What do you do secure classroom windows?
  • What do you do if one of your students is out of the room when a lockdown is initiated?
  • How will staff and students react to a critical incident on the campus?
  • How are they notified?

The answers to these questions shouldn’t be too difficult to determine as long as you have practiced your emergency drills.  If you don’t know the answer to one or more of these questions, your drills aren’t properly preparing you.

Don’t just go through the motions of a drill to “check the box” that says you met your requirement; this does not benefit anyone, in fact it can cause more harm than good.  Conduct your drills frequently and take them seriously.  Remember, these drills will help you gain proficiency in the event that an critical incident occurs on your campus.

Practice. Practice. Practice…

Kevin Quinn is the past president of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO www.nasro.org), current President of the Arizona School Resource Officers Association (ASROA www.asroa.org), and a full time SRO in Arizona.  Contact Kevin via email:  kevin.quinn@nasro.org or @klah316 on Twitter.

 

 

Safety and Security. These two words get tossed around and together all the time. They are often used interchangeably. They are, of course, strongly related, but two distinct concepts nonetheless.

In terms of our school communities, “safety” is a global term, used to describe our efforts to keep the school community and environment safe. Safety is an “umbrella term” for the many types of issues and/or crises a school community addresses in order to ensure the overall wellness of its members.

Examples of such issues are health, mental wellness, school climate, fire safety, weather safety, building security, dangerous persons, bullying, environmental disaster, crime in the community, and bus and traffic safety. The number and type of each issue a school community addresses is highly specific to the community. Factors such as location, student population, culture, geographic location, and proximity to potential dangers are completely unique to each school.

While many schools are focusing intently on building security because of recent events like our tragedy, it is critically important that school communities examine the entire “Safety Umbrella” of their school in order to provide a truly comprehensive plan for school safety. Security may be the most lacking of all aspects of safety in our schools today and as such deserves our attention. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that security represents one of many critical aspects of the “School Safety Umbrella.”

What kind of coverage does your school’s “safety umbrella” provide?

MG

Safety Umbrella