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Why School Safety Doesn’t Just Start and End with Schools

School safety is consistently top of mind for educators across the United States, even amongst the unprecedented time of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic. Although many schools have adapted to online and digital teaching styles for the foreseeable future, school safety will always be a constant topic to consider in the K-12 education space. But school safety isn’t just a school’s responsibility as there are many moving parts that go into creating a comprehensive school safety strategy.

School Safety Covers a Range of Topics

When many think of school safety minds can go to the tragic school violence events we’ve seen unfold across the country over the last few decades. In more recent times the United States was shocked after witnessing the Parkland and Santa Fe school shooting tragedies, which prompted many K-12 schools to investigate school safety technologies designed to assist in predicting and preventing active assailants and other school safety threats from occurring.

Related Blog: How To Get Buy In From Teachers When Using New School Safety Tech

School safety is defined as schools and school-related activities where students are safe from violence, bullying, harassment, and substance use, according to Safe Supportive Learning. Essentially, the goal of school safety is to protect students as well as faculty and staff. There are multiple school safety threats schools should be aware of such as the following:

  • School emergencies
    • Active Assailants
    • Severe weather
    • Medical emergencies
    • Fires and Gas Leaks
    • Pandemics
  • Mental Health
  • Weapons and Substance Abuse
  • Bullying and Violence

Why School Safety Doesn’t Just Start and End with Schools

As there are many school safety threats that could harm students and staff, it’s impossible for the responsibilities to fall just on the school itself. K-12 schools and districts have to work with internal resources such as teachers and administrators as well as outside resources to ensure the safety of students and staff.

  • School Personnel
    Having dedicated schoolteachers and staff on board to assist during a school safety threat is of paramount importance. If there is an active assailant on school premises, for example, teachers and staff need to understand school lockdown protocols and implement them immediately. Not jumping into action immediately could mean the difference between life and death. The same goes for a bullying incident. If teachers witness a student fall victim to bullying, they should understand the next steps in helping the student and disciplining the bully accordingly.

    Often, schools implement communication technology such as a mobile panic button or mass notification system to quickly notify staff of what emergency is occurring and what needs to be done to ensure the safety of the students.

  • Mental Health Professionals
    Unfortunately, at least 10 million students, ages 13 – 18, need some type of professional help with a mental health condition. The Child Mind Institute reports that half of all mental illness occurs before the age of 14, and 75 percent by the age of 24—highlighting the urgent need to create systemic approaches to the problem, according to NEA Today. Although teachers are great at noticing red flags for students struggling with mental health disorders, if schools have the ability they should partner and work with mental health professionals or employ school psychologists, school counselors, and school social workers to help address concerns for students and ensure their safety.
    Related Blog: School Tip Lines Have Uncovered a Teen Mental Health Crisis A recent article highlighted how school tip text lines had uncovered a high number of teens reporting students self-harming or feeling suicidal, which far outpaced the number of threats against schools. It is more likely for K-12 schools to suffer the loss of a student to suicide than see the loss of a student in a mass shooting event. Investing in mental health is extremely important when considering school safety.

  • Local Law Enforcement and Public Safety Agencies
    Local law enforcement and public safety agencies are just as important in a school safety plan as the school itself. During a school emergency 9-1-1 is called and police, fire, and EMS are dispatched to assist in helping students and staff during a school safety threat. These agencies must have a good understanding of the emergency response plans in place for each type of school emergency, whether an active assailant or medical emergency. It’s common for police departments to offer additional safety training for school staff and share security expertise.

    Schools have invested in school safety technology such as panic button applications that are integrated within a local 9-1-1 center’s emergency response system which provides them critical information such as floor plans, caller location, emergency exits and entry points, and emergency contacts so that first responders can arrive on scene prepared for the school safety threat.

  • State and Local Governments
    Some states are seeing specific mandates after school shooting tragedies, such as the 2019 Florida Statute that now requires safe-school officers at every public school. We’re also seeing Alyssa’s Law, which would require panic button alarms in every school building to use during a school emergency, being brought forward in New York, Florida, and was implemented in New Jersey. State and local governments play a role in providing funding for school safety initiatives and technologies to keep students safe.

Related Blog: How Technology Can Support Statewide School Safety Initiatives

It's clear that school safety doesn’t just start and end with school, but includes multiple moving parts and people to make sure students and staff stay safe.

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Tara Gibson
Tara Gibson

Tara is a Marketing Coordinator on the Rave Mobile Safety marketing team. She loves writing about all things K-12, State & Local, Higher Ed, Corporate, and Healthcare, and manages the Rave social media channels. When she's not working, she's taking care of her smiley, shoe eating, Instagram-famous fur baby, Enzo!

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