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Monday, December 17, 2012

How Safe & Secure Is Your Child's School?

Ensuring Your School Is Safe From Unwanted And Perhaps Dangerous Intruders

On the heels of the tragedy at the Connecticut elementary school last week, parents have a responsibility to ask school officials how they ensure their school is safe from unwanted and perhaps dangerous intruders. This is not a debate about gun control. That issue will be debated in the public forum. This is specifically about security (or lack of security) at the school your child or children attend.  As a parent, you should do the following immediately (and don't do it alone. Approach your school's administration with a group of parents or call for a meeting with the school in a larger forum) asking your school administrator some of the following:

  • Have they ever completed a security assessment.? If they haven't, ask why not? And ask them when they plan on completing one. If they have one, when was it last updated? When was staff trained in the plan?
  • Do they have a school safety plan or a crisis response plan? If not, why not? And when do they propose to draw one up. I believe they are mandated by the Department of Education. Regardless, every school should have one. Make sure you ask for a copy of the security plan. If they do not have a plan, tell them you want to give input into that plan (e.g., a parent committee on school safety and security).
  • Who is responsible for this plan?
  • Is there a crisis response team at the school? If not, why not?And when do they propose having one?  If they do, what type of training do staff have in ensuring school security?
  • Does the school have a plan in dealing with troubled youth, especially those with specific mental health issues? This should include identifying youth at risk of psychological trauma.
  • Do local law enforcement authorities and First-Responders have information regarding your specific school such as a map of the school including surrounding streets, campus layout, a blueprint of the facility or facilities, keys to the entrances, phone numbers of administrators and staff security personnel, up-to-date student roster, list of students with special needs, designated evacuation sites at the facilities, etc.?
  • In this day and age, schools should also give serious attention to having professional security personnel in the school (at a minimum, if I were a parent of a child at school, I would demand police presence on the perimeter of the school to ensure any dangerous intruder does not ENTER the school in the first place. Yes, there will be an additional cost associated with this, but it's a cost I am certain most school districts and taxpayers would be willing to assume).
  • The school should also have a crisis-aftermath plan.
This is by no means a comprehensive approach, but it's a start. Remember: School safety is up to all of us.