The 2020-2021 school year proved to be challenging for both K-12 schools and higher education institutions. Students, faculty, staff, parents and their communities dealt with a variety of challenges, from an ever-evolving pandemic to navigating hybrid learning models.
As a result, maintaining a positive and safe learning environment was not easy.
Even in the 2021-2022 school year, COVID-19 is still a top safety concern across schools. The toll it has taken on students, parents, faculty and staff, and has changed the way schools look at safety on their campuses. After two years, people are exhausted and campus administrators are still maneuvering the challenges that come with that exhaustion.
To better understand how K-12 and higher education staff members feel about school safety in the upcoming 2022-2023 school year, Rave Mobile Safety hosted its second annual national survey of education staffers. This survey included over 400 employees in K-12 schools and over 380 higher education staffers.
The survey results conclude that campus safety extends beyond social distancing and daily health checks. While these are important steps for ensuring campus safety, administrators must figure out how to simultaneously address other safety concerns such as mental health crises and campus violence.
The survey assessed key findings covering campus mental health, crisis communication challenges and how to prepare for and overcome those challenges in the upcoming school year.
Concerns over student and staff mental health
Unsurprisingly, mental health concerns topped the list for both student and faculty concerns in the 2021-2022 school year. The urgency associated with mental health is calling on schools to implement better systems that support everyone on their campus.
61% of K-12 respondents and 59% of higher education respondents noted that mental health is their number one concern (K-12 schools) and number two (higher education) safety concern for the upcoming school year.
Emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts rose 51% for girls ages 12 to 17 in 2021. The pediatric health organizations declared mental health in children and adolescents to be a national emergency.
The years spent in school are transformative for children and teenagers. Even students attending higher education institutions experience life-changing events. While experts are unsure of the long-term impact the pandemic may have on children, teens and young adults, it is evident that mental health continues to be a top concern among everyone surveyed.
Mental health impacts every portion of a young person’s life:
- 61% of teens say they have felt pressure to get good grades
- 50% of all lifetime mental illnesses develop by the age 14
- Over 2.3 million youth (ages 12–17) have severe depression
- 8 in 10 children ages 3–17 with depression receive treatment
- 1 in 5 students ages 12–18 are bullied throughout the school year
The concerns give way to a number of other serious matters, such as cyberbullying. K-12 survey respondents also said that they felt an increased level of concern as compared to the prior years — totaling to a 12% increase.
Survey respondents who work in higher education said that the fear of increased crime is continuing to raise levels of concern and negatively impact mental health.
Planning for the 2022-2023 school year
COVID-19 may have a different level of impact in the coming years. However, major challenges still lie ahead for K-12 school administrators, faculty, staff, and students. Administrators anticipate that mental health support will increase dramatically across the board in the next school year. Meeting the needs of students, faculty and staff will be vital for maintaining a secure learning environment.
In addition to mental health concerns, implementing COVID-19-related safety measures was seen as a top priority by 52% of K-12 survey respondents. However, the number has decreased by 19% as compared to the previous school year. Concern over active assailants grew by 14%, while cyberbullying concerns grew by 12%.
An increase in crisis communication challenges at higher education institutions
It can be difficult to implement crisis and emergency response efforts at higher education institutions. They have a more varied learning environment that is much larger and more dispersed than K-12 schools. Sending alerts to keep everyone in the loop during an emergency, or for important announcements, is often a challenge for higher education officials.
At these institutions, there was a 15% increase in concerns about an active assailant on campus, and anxiety surrounding severe weather events rose by 19%. Anxiety about crime grew by 20%.
It is crucial that campuses plan ahead and prepare efficiently to protect their students and staff and prevent panic.
Improving emergency communication at schools
Emergency communication procedures have been under heavy scrutiny over the last few years. However, K-12 leaders and higher education officials have been more aware than ever of the need to have an efficient communication system. This system would need to be able to communicate announcements across multiple channels and make it easy for anyone to see.
By doing so, schools are more in-tune with what their communities are struggling with and how they can work out a plan of action to meet that need.
In addition to sending emergency alerts to students, faculty and staff, each person receiving the information should know that proper planning is important for preventing further emergencies or consequences.
Communicating efficiently means providing a space for open and effective conversations between students, their parents, faculty, staff and administrators.
Take the First Step in Protecting Your Campus
The pandemic has changed the way that higher education and K-12 campus officials understand the importance of keeping their communities safe.
With a clear communication plan, open channels of communication for students and staff, and a solid action plan to respond to emergencies, K-12 schools and higher education institutions can provide their campuses with the necessary safety and security resources to feel protected while at school.
With multi-model messaging available in over 60 languages, two-way messaging, preset templates and task lists to delegate after-emergency protocol and anonymous alerts, Rave Mobile Safety’s platform gives schools everything they need to feel empowered about their safety.