3 Ways to Make This School Year Safer Than Ever

10/07/2019  |  Hillary Bowling

Keeping staff and students safe can be like a gray cloud always looming. As an administrator, certain questions might start to stack up as you think about this school year: How can I train staff and educate students effectively while checking all the boxes of state-mandated compliance? How can I track student behavior closely enough to see patterns and respond to warning signs? How can I handle the inevitable incidents that may happen — and avoid as many as possible?

Hillary Bowling is the marketing manager of PublicSchoolWORKS which provides complete, online safety and regulatory compliance programs for K-12 schools. A version of this blog originally appeared on the PublicSchoolWORKS website (https://corp.publicschoolworks.com/).

Much like the weather, school safety feels hard to predict and impossible to control. However, if you start taking small steps toward safety now, you can relieve some of the burden and feel confident throughout the entire school year.

Here are three ways to make this school year safer than ever:

Identify Ways to Make Safety Collaborative

Every burden is made lighter by sharing it. Truth is, the responsibility of safety needs to be felt by every single staff member. A culture of safety is only pervasive when every individual makes the decision to actively promote safety and take their own safety education seriously.

So how do you rally your stakeholders and staff? Practical ideas include leveraging social media, talking through practice scenarios to look for threats, digging deep into your own environment to find “problem areas” before they become problem areas, even bringing students into staff meetings to understand new places/apps/etc. with which students are interacting.

Since every district culture is different, however, make a list of ways you can involve others. Maybe you can even brainstorm ideas with a few other school officials.

Create a Plan for How to Handle Incidents

Planning to avoid incidents is more compelling than thinking about how to handle them. But sometimes, accidents happen. Knowing what you’ll do — and communicating that plan to staff, parents and, when appropriate, students — makes everybody feel safer.

This is especially important in a culture where there are major incidents happening in other schools. Gun violence, for example, was higher in 2018 than it has been since 1970, according to the Center for Homeland Defense and Security at NPS. When a school shooting occurs, even across the country, everybody feels more vulnerable and fearful. Having a plan to address a school shooting or incident at another school is as deeply impactful as knowing what to do if a student is choking.

Every good plan, of course, should include not only a resolution to a problem but a next step to move forward. One way is to offer your staff quick refresher courses that cover a host of “everyday” incidents from insect bites to slips, trips and falls.

Take Time to Educate Yourself

One best practice is reading about other schools that have had success in streamlining safety management or preventing student crises, and how they have built a culture of safety. There is likely an opportunity to look up other administrators in your state and share challenges and success stories.

Make a list of three people who have handled safety really well, and three people who have had to deal with incidents beyond their control. Take them to lunch. Then incorporate their good ideas into your plan and share it with your team.

If your students feel safer than ever this year, they’ll be better equipped to learn more productively than ever, too.

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