Here are the Top School Safety Terms You Should Know

Picture of Mary Kate McGrath By Mary Kate McGrath


school safety-1In an era with unprecedented risks, putting together a comprehensive safety plan is more crucial than ever for school safety administrators. Each district will face its own unique challenges - a campus located in a rural area will face distinct safety obstacles, and those will be different from a school in a city. However, no matter what the issues facing your community, a working knowledge of top school safety terms is critical. 

Every year, new school safety policy is signed into law, security tools are made available, and community improvement strategies are proposed by nonprofits and organizations. In order to decide which work best for the community, school safety officials should understand the unique needs of students, teachers, and staff. Terminology is important when it comes to crafting a school safety plan, and defining terms will help administrators make these tough decisions. 

In 2019, the issues facing schools are more urgent than ever before, from protecting students from active assailants to managing severe weather emergencies. Yet, there are also daily or weekly emergencies which arise on campus, such as sports injuries or other medical emergencies. School safety administrators must invest in a comprehensive safety plan that accommodates for any emergency situations, whether it is a student suffering an allergy attack or an intruder on campus. 

Familiarizing your team with the language of school safety can help to better understand safety strategies, tools, and safety roles. Here are 100 of the top school terms:

1. Teacher - an employee who helps students acquire knowledge, competence, or life skills. Teachers have a duty of care when it ocmes to managing behavior and safety within a classroom which may vary between communities
2. Principal - the school principal, also known as a headmaster, headmistress, chancellor, or director is responsible for managing school operations
3. Vice-Principal - the vice principal has a broad range of administrative and educational responsibilities in K12 schools and is often tasked with managing disciplinary action for students
4. Superintendent - the superintendent is the top executive of a school district and makes major decisions about education programs, spending, staff, and facility management
5. School Secretary - a school secretary is tasked with managing the administrative side of operations, and also is responsible of day-to-day operations, such as screening visitors on campus
6. School Resource Officer (SRO) - The United States Department of Justice defines the SRO as a “sworn law enforcement officer responsible for safety and crime prevention in schools.” In recent years, the responsibilities of SROs have expanded to include anything from directing traffic, keeping an eye out for upset or distressed students, and managing threats.
7. National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) - an organization dedicated to providing high-quality training to school-based law enforcement officers to create safer school environments, a resource for schools to learn more about the role of SROs on campus 
8. Law Enforcement - local law enforcement operates separately from security on campus and will be called to handle certain threats
9. School Custodian - a school janitor or custodian is tasked with maintaining facility operations on campus, from infrastructure management, such as plumbing, to managing any urgent mess or vandalism
10. Lockdown - an emergency protocol which prevents students, teachers, or staff from leaving or entering an area
11. Hard Lockdown - A hard lockdown drill indicates that there is an immediate threat on campus, and requires the school to go into the immediate emergency procedure. This means that students, teachers, and staff cannot move around within the school, and are required to remain within a locked classroom
12. Soft Lockdown - A soft lockdown is used when a possible threat is identified in the surrounding area. This would involve any safety risk that is happening outside of the school - for example, a bank robbery, burglary, or a parent attempting to retrieve a child from school who has been instructed not to
13. Evacuation - organized and supervised dispersal of students, teachers, and staff from campus during a dangerous or potentially dangerous incident 
14. Panic Button - A teacher or member of staff who hears alarming noises in the hallway can push a button to send a panic message by email or instant message to predefined personnel, such as the security staff and principal.
15. Panic Button App - a phone app that automatically dials 911 and provides first response teams with the nature of the emergency as well as location data while simultaneously sending notifications to people on site of the emergency incident
16. ALICE Training - a type of training that prepares individuals to handle the threat of an active shooter, ALICE teaches individuals to participate in their own survival by Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate
17. Drills - an event that simulates an emergency situation, used in school safety to condition students to follow appropriate protocol in stressful situations such as fire, evacuation, lockdown, or severe weather incidents

School Safety Drill Kit18. Soft Target - a soft target is a person or location particularly unprotected and vulnerable, especially from a military or terrorist attack
19. Target Hardening - Target hardening is an approach meant to make a school less of a target for anyone with bad intent by working with community law enforcement and other partners on school building access, visitor policies, and interior and exterior security measures
20. Physical Security - visible security measures which are designed to prevent unauthorized access or other crimes, such as vandalism. Popular physical security tools include security cameras, metal detectors, and ID tap-in cards
21. Access Badge - a credential used to gain entry to an area secured by an automatic access control entryway
22. Nurse - a K12 nurse is a specialized healthcare employee who acts as a bridge between health and education. The nurse promotes community health and assists with disease prevention
23. Guidance Counselor - Guidance counselor help students with a variety of academic, social, and psychological issues, and are imperative to student success and continuity
24. U.S. Department of Education - The Federal agency which shapes public school policy regarding education and can include school safety
25. Identification Technology - distinguishes who has access to campus and who does not such as visitor badges, parking stickers, and palm scanners
26. Video Surveillance Technology - used to record student misbehavior, identify perpetrators and deter crimes by suggesting perpetrators are being monitored, such as camera, closed-circuit TV, and video-motion detection system
27. Communication Technology - allows students and staff to notify school office and law enforcement about incidents, unauthorized individuals, and other risks
28. School-Site Protection Systems - alerts students, teachers and staff as well as first responders and protect those in the school from attack
29. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) - a Federal agency to secure the nation from threats that range from terrorism, aviation, and border security, securing cyberspace, and managing emergency response
30. Emergency Alert - alerts and prevents rumors through automated text messages, e-mails, voice messages, and social media posts
31. Metal Detectors - hand-held or walk through machines used to prevent weapons from entering a school
32. Social Media Monitoring - scans for problems or threats online, especially since the majority of bullying incidents now occur in the digital sphere
33. Bus-Route Mapping - helps first responders prepare for a crisis using geographic information software
34. Active Shooter - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims”

>>Learn All About Active Shooter Facts35. Emergency Action Plan (EAP) - An effective EAP includes A preferred method for reporting fires and other emergencies, an evacuation policy and procedure, emergency escape procedures and route assignments (i.e., floor plans, safe areas), and contact information for, and responsibilities of individuals to be contacted under the EAP
36. Breach - a disregard of boundaries and engaging in behavior that tests rules or consequences, considered a warning sign on the way to violence
37. School Culture - .the shared beliefs, systems, and attitudes that characterize the district-wide organization and establish boundaries
38. First Responders - a professional designated and trained to respond to an emergency, from dispatch to arriving on the scene 
39. EMT - emergency medical technician, paramedic, and ambulance technicians trained to address medical issues, traumatic injuries and accident scenes
40. Firefighters - a first responder trained specifically in extinguishing fires that threaten life, property, and the environment
41. Emergency Medical Services - the emergency organization that responds to medical emergencies, including emergency medical technicians, paramedics, and command personnel
42. Severe Weather - weather that poses a risk to student, teacher, or staff safety, and requires a public safety response
43. Copycat Effect - the theory that a certain situation is increased by a recent similar situation, used often in reference to suicide rates which are increased following the suicide of someone with whom students are likely to identify
44. Werther Effect - another term for the copycat effect in relation to suicide, in which a publicized suicide acts as a trigger for vulnerable or susceptible people
45. Contagion Period - a theory created by Sherry Towers of Arizona State University that posits that 30% of mass shootings with a high number of victims and national media exposure occurs within 13 days of the previous mass shooting
46. School Bullying - a type of bullying which occurs in an educational setting, characterized by hostile intent, imbalance of power,  repetition, and provocation
47. Cyberbullying - a form of bullying or harassment that uses electronic means, also known as online bullying and is particularly prevalent among teens
48. Bystander - a person who is present and at a bullying event or incident that doesn’t take action to stop it
49. Bystander Effect - a psychological phenomenon in which individuals are less likely to intervene and stop an incident of bullying or violence if other people are present
50. Barricade - a type of physical security measure used largely to manage traffic and prevent
51. Vandalism- a type of school property damage which involves the destruction or defacement of resources
52. Community Policing - a trust-building strategy where local law enforcement and members of the community are in close communication, often involves school events and collaboration
53. School Design - in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, architectural advancements have been developed to make the school design part of crime prevention, prioritizing traffic flow in a way that potential threats can be detected early
54. Stop the Bleed - a type of training that equips students, teachers, and staff to act in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives
55. Security Camera - a surveillance security system comprised of several interconnected camera systems, recording images and displaying them on a monitor for administrators
56. Fire Alarm System - a number of devices working together to detect and warn people through visual and audio warnings when smoke, fire, carbon dioxide are present
57. First-Aid Kit - a collection of supplies and equipment that is used to give preliminary medical treatment or address minor injuries 
58. Alert - a warning of danger, threat, or problem, used to the situation can be avoided or solved in a timely manner
59. Mass Notification System - a platform that sends one-way messages to inform students, parents, teachers, and staff of an emergency situation
60. Mental Health - a wide range of conditions that affect mood, thinking and behavior. The Pew Research Center found that 70 percent of teenagers identified mental health as a major issue among their peers, an issue which encompasses anxiety, depression, and other psychological concerns
61. Entry-Control Equipment - technology meant to make it easier to restrict access to school authorized users, such as electromagnetic door locks or restricted areas
62. Communication Technology - allows students and staff to notify the school office and law enforcement about incidents, unauthorized individuals, and risks
63. School Safety Grants - federal or state funds set aside for school safety solutions, including SROs, technology, and mental health resources
64. Truancy - any intentional or unintentional, unjustified, or unauthorized absence from education
65. Lunch Shaming - a detrimental approach to addressing lunch debt in which a family’s economic welfare is revealed by throwing away food or giving kids lower-quality food, resulting in embarrassment for students
66. School Safety Task Force - a group of individuals who identify products, programs, and systems to improve school safety
67. Cognitive Bias - a type of thinking in which an individual's construction of social reality, not the objective input, may dictate their behaviour in the social world, and may appear in violence threat assessment
68. English Language Learner (ELL) - a student whose primary language is one other than English and who may need to receive emergency communications in a language other than English
69. Special Education - specifically designed education and instruction to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities
70. Restorative Justice - a type of disciplinary action where focus on the relationship between teacher, students, and peers, and how the situation in question can be used to move forward with more effective communication
71. Community Conferencing - a type of restorative justice where educators and students prevent and respond to conflict by allowing all stakeholders to have a role in the resolution process
72. Peer Juries & Mediation - a system of disciplinary action where trained student jurors to discuss why a rule was broken, who was impacted and what the best way for the student to repair the harm might be
73. Preventative Post-Conflict Resolution - programs to provide students with self-control skills by walking them through their emotions and teaching them to address the issues that gave rise to the conflict in the first place, preventing future incidents by addressing the root of the issue
74. Community Service - a type of disciplinary action that benefits the school as a whole while giving students a sense of accomplishment
75. Prototypical School - a school design used in the state funding formula to determine the number of teachers, principals, and other school staff that are needed to provide a basic education
76. Code of Silence - an unspoken code of conduct in which students refrain from telling an adult about worrisome statements or behaviors because they fear this will have a negative outcome for the student who tells
77. Escalation - the process by which a situation that begins as a minor conflict goes unresolved and ultimately worsens and may result in violence
78. Warning Sign - a behavioral indication of the planning, intent, or capability to commit an act of violence
79. Threat Assessment - the structured process by which safety professionals evaluate the risk posed by a student or another person, typically in response to an actual or perceived threat or concerning behavior
80. Alyssa’s Law - a law signed into legislation in New Jersey named for Alyssa Alhadeff, who was one of the 17 people killed in the Parkland, Florida shooting, which requires public schools to install silent panic alarms that can be activated in case of an active-shooter situation

>>Learn How You Can Comply With Alyssa's Law With a Panic Button App81. Tarasoff Warning - a mental health professional’s duty to report or disclose information about a patient or client who may become violent, as well as individuals who are specifically threatened to them
82. Universal Codes - code yellow and code red are two terms used commonly in school lockdowns and are considered universal codes, with yellow associated with caution and red associated with danger
83. National Incident Management System (NIMS) - the organization which conceived of plain language and universal codes, strongly urges plain language for internal operations but did not require it
84. Stalking - a pattern of unwanted behavior or attention that causes discomfort, fear, and a sense of intimidation for the victim, behaviors include following the victim, showing up uninvited, memorizing a victim’s schedule, is considered a major crime
85. Predatory Violence - an act of planned violence that focuses on planned violence focused on specific targets and places
86. Liability Quotient - a determination of a school district’s exposure to liability regarding school safety, can be lowered by proper training and best practices to improve safety
87. Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) - a Federal law applied to schools that receive funding from the government, that protects the privacy of student education records
88. Immunization Records - provides a history of the vaccines received as children and adults, are required for public school registration to prevent the spread of disease or illness on campus
89. Federal Commission on School Safety - an organization founded following the shooting in Parkland, Florida by the Trump administration made up of Betsey DeVos and other high-level officials to put forth recommendations on how to safeguard students against gun violence and other threats 
90. Leakage - a warning behavior that indicates in the form of verbal, visual, or written communication such as boasting, innuendo, jokes, drawing, social media posts, or other comments
91. Mitigation - the ability to reduce or prevent an emergency situation, preventing loss of life or damage to the campus
92. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - a government agency to support citizens by first responders by working together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards
93. Situational Awareness - the practice of paying attention to surroundings and noticing behavior or cues which are unordinary and could be indicators of violence helping students, teachers, and staff to be better prepared and increase the ability to stay safe in the instance of an emergency situation on campus
94. Threat Assessment Team - a team that brings together teachers, school officials, and government agencies to who investigate, evaluate, and assess threats to school safety, made up of administrators, student service teams such as mental health professionals, and law enforcement
95. Community-Based Planning - the concept that planning must not only be representative of the actual population within the community but also must involve the whole community in the planning process.
96. The Preparedness Cycle - a type of school emergency plan which follows a cycle of preparedness, including plan, organize and equip, train, exercise, and evaluate and improve
97. FirstNet - the first network created for public safety team, the goal to create, build, and operate a nationwide broadband network that equips first responders to save lives and protect U.S. communities
98. Shelter Directive - a safety strategy that posits stating the hazard allows for an understanding of the threat and the associated protective actions, most often utilized for tornadoes or severe weather, in which case the directive would include where students and staff should be ready to take emergency measures and shelter
99. Multidisciplinary Approach - an approach to safety planning where administrators collaborate with school district police officers and local law enforcement as part of a risk assessment team
100. Behavior Management - behavior management in the classroom is the process by which teachers and schools encourage and maintain appropriate behavior in classroom settings

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Mary Kate McGrath

Written by Mary Kate McGrath

Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.


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