Last year, Connecticut passed Public Act 18-172 - a law that (among other provisions) requires law enforcement to notify day care centers when an emergency situation in the vicinity of a center may endanger the safety or welfare of children. The law excludes K-12 schools from the requirement, but should it?
Connecticut's Office of Early Childhood was set up in 2013 to coordinate and improve the various early childhood programs throughout the state. The Office's primary roles include setting the standards for licensing family child care homes, child care centers, and group child care homes (collectively known as “day care centers”), performing background checks on employees, and issuing licenses. The Office also funds certain day care center activities, and provides education materials and resources.
In April 2018, the Office of Early Childhood created an action plan based on the results of a survey distributed among the state's day care centers. In order to accomplish parts of the action plan, the Office required certain changes to the law and it approached the General Assembly with a number of recommendations. Following a review by the Senate and House of Representatives, Public Act 18-172 (SB 5169) was passed in May with an effective date of 1st July 2018.
Requirement to Notify Day Care Centers of Danger
One of the provisions of the new law is for law enforcement to notify licensed day care centers of an emergency situation in the vicinity of the center when it may endanger the safety or welfare of children in the center's care. The law provides a number of emergency situation examples, such as a fire, an act of nature, or a criminal act - criminal acts example usually being extended to include searches for fugitives or criminals on the run immediately after committing a criminal act.
The required notification will be provided via the state's CT Alert emergency notification system, which was the country's first statewide emergency alert system. Like most emergency notification systems, CT Alert is capable of database segmentation so licensed day care centers can be placed into a “notification group”. The system also supports geo-targeting so only day care centers at risk of being in danger are notified of the emergency situation, while others are spared the concern of controlled “soft” lockdowns.
K-12 Schools are Excluded from the Requirement, but Should They Be?
The state of Connecticut has always been forward-thinking when it comes to school safety. In addition to supporting multiple school safety and security initiatives - and providing an anonymous tip service with location and imaging capabilities - the state was among the first to mandate emergency communication plans for hard of hearing students. Yet, with regards to Public Act 18-172, K-12 schools are explicitly excluded - even those with day care centers.
There is no documented reason for the exclusion, and while it is assumed public schools in Connecticut will have already signed up to join the free CT Alert service, there is no guarantee every school has. Furthermore, targeted and school-specific alerts would provide school administrators with more detailed alerts in order to prevent unnecessary lockdowns. (It was recently reported a school in neighboring Pennsylvania ordered an unnecessary lockdown due to a lack of information).
While there is no way of telling whether lockdowns are an effective way of protecting students from injuries in emergency situations (both controlled “soft” lockdowns and full “hard” lockdowns), it was reported in 2018 that school lockdowns are causing a psychological crisis for students. It is understandable schools adopt a “better safe than sorry” approach to protecting students; but unnecessary lockdowns appear to be causing unnecessary psychological traumas.
An Emergency Notification System Would Solve this Issue
A solution to the issue of unnecessary lockdowns is for school personnel to utilize a reliable emergency notification or school notification system. By receiving information about a nearby danger, users can determine whether the threat is viable and would require a lockdown, or if there is no threat to the school community. Users, such as a school administrator, can then quickly send out voice, email, social media, and text alerts, to students and parents using real-time contact information from within your school's student information system (SIS).
Anonymous two-way communication capabilities enable students to reach out anonymously if there is an emergency situation, and school administrators have the ability to request further information if necessary, and updates as the situation develops or is resolved. The system also allows school administrators to report an emergency and alert on-site personnel simultaneously so lockdown procedures or evacuations can be initiated without delay. Schools also have the option of integrating the systems with school panic button mobile apps to further enhance school security.
If you feel your school or school district would benefit from an emergency notification system to accelerate lockdown decisions and reduce emergency response times, consider looking into our suite of K-12 solutions.
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