K-12 schools are making a huge effort to prepare teachers, staff, administrators, and students for school safety threats and emergencies, but what about substitute teachers? Often substitute teachers are entering different classrooms weekly with unfamiliar surroundings and rooms full of young strangers. On top of having to follow another teachers’ lesson plans, substitute teachers are responsible for the students in the class. It’s important that K-12 schools and districts provide clear emergency plans for substitute teachers so that they can keep both themselves and their students safe.
In Texas, “62% of district respondents provide group substitute training at the district level, and another 25% of districts provide some other sort of training, including online courses or training from a third-party provider. 13% of respondents provide no training to substitutes. Of those districts that provide training, 54 percent provide it only once, upon initial hire” according to Texas Association of School Boards.
Considerations for Substitute Teachers
All individuals that would have duties in a school incident or emergency event, need basic preparedness training. This always includes substitute and floating teachers. Although they’re not always on the same school grounds, they need to be prepared for an emergency.
- Timely Safety Plan Refreshers
Practice makes perfect! Safety trainings for active shooter threats, weather events, and other general emergencies should be revisited at least annually. Texas School Safety Center recommends integrating training into already scheduled professional development, as well as during monthly staff meetings the campus safety committee or departments/grade level teams can take turns presenting sections of the campus emergency plan to their colleagues. More suggestions for training include:
- Prior to beginning of school year or summer school session
- During new employee orientation
- During in-service or staff development
- During safety committee meetings
- During staff/department meetings
- At the start of a semester (quick review/refresh)
- Following a plan change, for any reason
- On a recurring schedule
- Scheduled refreshers
- At PTO meetings
- Visit Evacuation Sites
Substitute teachers should absolutely know where all evacuation sites are located as well as reunification areas, media areas, and triage areas will be located. If a physical site visit isn’t possible, aerial maps or virtual tours can be an alternative option.
- Provide Literature
Plans, policies, and reference guides should include information on emergency response protocol and detailed explanations of the following:
- Lockdown Procedures
Typically in the event of an active shooter threat K-12 schools and districts will go into a lockdown. Shutting off the lights, locking doors, and covering windows are usually the first thing teachers will do. Knowing where materials are to cover windows, for example, is something substitutes should be prepared for. According to Sub Sidekick schools are now giving subs the keys to the classrooms in the event of a lockdown. If your school doesn’t provide keys for substitute teachers, they should be fully aware of where they can find one, and fast. Locking the doors in the case of an active shooter is extremely important.
- Fire Drills & Bomb Threats
Teachers should always leave instructions for both fire drill and bomb threats for substitute teachers. These should include detailed exit instructions, as drills are performed periodically throughout the school year. Each policy can be different based on the location of the classroom, and the school itself. Providing substitute teachers with these emergency plans is key to keeping students safe.
- Severe Weather Threats
TASB tells us, “Schools need plans in place to respond to hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and other dangerous situations. Most districts have worked hard to prepare written emergency operations plans and have trained employees and students through emergency response practice drills. However, there’s a large population of adults on campuses on any given day who typically aren’t included in those training and drills—substitute teachers.” If your school is in an area prone to natural disasters such as tornadoes for example, including detailed emergency plans on what to do and where to seek shelter is important information that should be clearly outlined for a substitute teacher.
- Clarify Communication Plans
If your K-12 school or district has a specific communication plan with students, staff, and parents, these should be clearly outlined for a substitute teacher. Schools utilize a school notification platform to inform everybody of emergencies such as severe weathers, and even simple attendance alerts if a student is absent.
- Lockdown Procedures
- Train Technology
Some K-12 schools have technologies in place to help bolster school safety, like a panic button application for example. Substitute teachers could very well find themselves in an active shooter situation where the use of this technology is essential as seconds count. Substitute teachers should absolutely know how to use the school safety technologies in place and have a good understanding of how they work. The Rave Panic Button has many options for alerting first responders and school staff about different emergencies ranging from medical to an active shooter.
Keeping everybody in the loop, including substitutes and floating teachers, will ensure your entire school community is safe in case of an emergency.
Want to learn more about the Rave Panic Button application? Watch this short video!