School Safety: 5 key things parents should know

Another school tragedy today - this time at Ohio State.  Over the coming days we'll learn more about what happened there but there are key things families can ask and do NOW to ensure they understand the safety measures at their schools:

1. Does the school have a crisis response plan customized for their campus?  Over the last decade many states have mandated that schools have crisis response plans.  This sounds like a good idea in theory and yet because they were mandated many schools have simply copied generic plans provided by their state or another school district in order to meet their legal requirements.  Make sure that your school has a crisis response plan that has been specifically designed for its unique characteristics, demographics and personnel.

2. Does your campus regularly practice school safety drills?  If your campus does not regularly practice basic school safety drills such as lock-downs, shelter-in-place and evacuations ask the administrators why not? There is no good reason they can give you for not being prepared.  The old adage “practice makes perfect” not only applies to reading, writing and arithmetic.  

Most school safety experts advise campuses to practice such drills at least once per semester with teachers and school staff also drilling during in-service training days.

3. What should parents do if there is an emergency at the school?  Your school should be providing you with information regarding your role as a parent during a school crisis.  Who do you call?  Where do you go?  What do you when you get there?  What documents do you need to bring, if any?  Many schools require all parents to show proper identification to pick up their child after a “non-traditional release” such as an evacuation.  Make sure you know the school and districts policies for such an incident.

4. Have both staff and students received training on what to do during an active shooter incident?  It is imperative that administrators and teachers know what to do during a school crisis but it is equally as important for students to know what to do to survive an incident.  Demand to know exactly what training is provided to staff and students.  Does the school provide materials so you can discuss the training with your child and provide additional practice if necessary?

5. Has the school partnered with their local law enforcement agency to practice emergency response procedures?  Although many schools have crisis response plans most have not taken time to personally work with their local law enforcement agencies to co-develop plans and practice drills. Real-time practice scenarios are essential to a comprehensive school safety plan.  When school and law enforcement plans are not in sync with each other important procedures that could save lives may be missing.