Every school in South Dakota strives to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for students. Here are 8 questions every school administrator should ask to assess school safety.
Question #1 - Does your school district have a written emergency plan? If so, when was it updated and has your school staff been trained on the plan’s implementation?
Your school should develop, annually review, and practice implementation of emergency plans.
Question #2 – Do you have a team in your school that meets regularly to discuss school safety issues and review the plan?
Having a team of educators helps you in not only the development and implementation of a plan, but also in the communication of how the plan is implemented. Taking a team approach fosters a supporting safety culture within your school.
Question #3 - Are you meeting or exceeding state/district-mandated drills to test emergency procedures?
Practice makes perfect. Emergency drills provide the opportunity to test and improve procedures, but also lessen anxiety in the event of an actual emergency.
Question #4 - Does your school district have school safety and security policies of which you need to be aware?
It is very likely your school district has adopted guidance based on case law, legislation, and best practices. It is your responsibility to review those documents, implement requirements, and share pertinent information with students, staff, and parents.
Question #5 - Have you developed and practiced a reunification plan? Has that plan been communicated to parents so they understand their role and responsibility in the reunification process?
It may very well be that you have a reunification plan in place, but has it been communicated to ensure seamless implementation?
Question #6 - Do you have a process in place to make sure substitute staff understand their role and responsibility related to the plan?
This is a very important and often overlooked component of emergency preparedness. Do they have keys to lock doors? Do they understand evacuation and shelter in place procedures? It is possible they may be subbing for someone who has an important responsibility related to the implementation of the emergency plan.
Question #7 - What communication structures do you have in place to ensure you communicate effectively with parents in the event of a crisis?
Internal and external communications are essential during a crisis. The “what if?” scenarios are endless, but planning carefully and having a variety of communication tools at your disposal is going to be invaluable. Social media, text messaging, auto dialers, and mobile applications need to be considered as possible resources. There are many ways to communicate, parents just need to know where to find accurate and timely information.
Question #8 - How can you involve parents and the community in creating a culture of safety in your school?
Keeping children safe in school is everyone’s business. It is a responsibility that should not fall solely on the school administration. Engaging parents and the community in this important work helps to ensure you are providing the children in your care the safe and secure learning environment they deserve.