The All Hazards Crisis Response model of prevention, preparedness, response and recovery provides direction for the review of school safety plans. Briefly, here are reminders and actions for each part of the all hazards model.
Prevention: Continue to focus on relationships, connection and community. Review with staff the importance of practices that build relationships in the classroom, in extracurricular activities, out-of-school time programming and with families. Whether it is greeting students at the door of the classroom each day, morning meeting, class circle, developing beginning of the semester common agreements for the classroom or ongoing small group work, helping students get to know each other and to get to know staff is essential for a safe and caring school. When students feel that they have an adult they can trust and talk to, they are more likely to seek help for themselves or others.
One resource for programming and curriculum around social emotional learning is the 2013 CASEL Guide. The Collaborative on Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has released the 2013 CASEL Guide: Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs – Preschool and Elementary School Edition. It identifies 23 school-based programs that promote students’ self-control, relationship-building and problem-solving, among other competencies.
Smile at students, call them by name, and show interest in their lives. Do the same to your colleagues.
Preparedness: The importance of relationship flows into preparedness. Wade Setter, the former director of the Minnesota School Safety Center, says that ‘a crisis is not the time to pass out business cards.’ Meet with, on a regular basis, the district and community members (county mental health, law enforcement, first responders and faith community) of the district crisis response team. Review your plans; make changes as necessary. Also, take the time to talk about how to support students even before a crisis.
Use the Safe School Self-Assessment Checklist to direct your district crisis plan review. The Minnesota School Safety Center created a safe school self-assessment checklist for schools to use when conducting their own assessments. While not intended to be prescriptive, this self-assessment is designed to assist schools with evaluating their facilities for strengths and areas of vulnerability. Download a copy of the safe school self-assessment checklist. View resources on the Minnesota School Safety Center website. The information regarding safety drills is posted on the MDE website. Also, resources are available from the U.S. Department of Education’s Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center website.
Response: Even with the short time that school was in session after the event in Connecticut, December 2012, many of you were involved in some kind of response, formal or informal. Perhaps you took a student to the counseling office, perhaps you listened to a colleague’s fear. Perhaps you held a discussion circle to address rumors and help students identify their resources. Helping Youth and Children Recover from Traumatic Events is a compilation of resources from the U.S. Department of Education, other federal agencies and counseling experts.
Events can have impact on students and staff regardless of how far away they happened. Review with all faculty and staff the steps your school building took to help the students and each other deal with this very sad event. Ask for responses from family members as well. The sharing of success and challenges can help inform everyone on how to respond to any crisis or tragedy. Be sure to summarize the review and share it with the community members of the crisis response team. Solicit their feedback as well. Adjust plans as needed. Communicate findings with the school community, especially parents and guardians.
Recovery: Recovery is about restoring the learning environment so everyone can learn. Children, when faced with stress or trauma need routine, play (physical and imaginative) and in some instances, professional help. Schools naturally provide routine and intellectual engagement. However, physical activity provides the means by which children and adults can relieve stress.
Besides stress relief, there are many important reasons to increase physical activity among all students, pre-K-12: improved focus, behavior and positive attitudes as well as over-all physical health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Research shows that students who earn mostly A’s are almost twice as likely to get regular physical activity as students who receive mostly D’s and F’s.” JAM (Just-a-Minute) School Program provides free ideas for infusing 60 seconds of physical activity into a class period. View a list of resources on how physical activity can be integrated into the school day on the National Association for Sport and Physical Education website.
Recovery becomes prevention. The routine of the learning community that focus on the positive provides safety and connection for students and staff. Schools are still one of the safest places in the U.S. for children.
Please Contact Nancy Riestenberg, School Climate Specialist, Minnesota Department of Education, 651-582-8433 or email@example.com.