For a teacher or school administrator, confronting the possibility of violence at school is not a pleasant task, but unfortunately it's a necessary one. Physical attacks can come from a variety of directions: disgruntled employees, students (often in incidents related to bullying), criminal elements of a given neighborhood, or disturbed individuals who seek to hurt children. Regardless of who might be a potential perpetrator of violence at school, there is a basic framework you can implement in order to prevent and mitigate threats to students and staff as well as keep families up-to-date on events.
It's important to think strategically and plan for contingencies. The National Association of School Psychologists provides practical steps for school safety awareness, steps any school administration can use. Let's examine them:
- Write a letter to parents explaining the school safety policies you implement. You can cite statistics that less than one percent of violent deaths are school-related.
- Conduct an annual review of school safety policies and procedures, consistently evaluating any potential issues that should be addressed.
- Regularly update your emergency response plans and conduct periodic drills with full school participation.
- Connect with community partners (first responders, area hospitals, victim assistance professionals) to review current plans and touch upon issues that might arise in an emergency.
- Provide crisis training and professional development for key staff based on needs identified during your annual review.
- If you don't have one already, create a conflict resolution program for students and enforce strict guidelines against bullying.
While the news headlines don't always reflect our everyday reality, life can still be dangerous and unpredictable, even in our institutions of education. By following this framework and practicing concrete school safety measures, you can help ensure the well-being of your students, their families and the community.