Have schools taken into account crisis planning issues related to terrorism, such as Active Shooter, handling bombs and bomb threats, creating emergency communications plans, and preparing for gunfire on campus?
Arming teachers is hardly a solution, and President Trump’s promotion of the idea seems more like the federal government trying to avoid providing financing for anti-terrorism training for school resource officers, school security assessments, and emergency planning. The Department of Homeland Security finally needs to get involved, and provide assistance coordinating school security efforts with local police and other agencies.
This may be old news, but The No Child Left Behind Act noted that schools need to develop crisis plans beyond what they traditionally have done. Schools have been told that if they don’t have a crisis plan, they need to get one; if they have one, they need to update it. How many of these plans have not been reviewed since they were adopted? Have the schools reviewed their plans with local emergency responders? Obviously, Columbine was not enough of a wake-up call.
School shootings are horrible, gun violence is horrible. Worse it creates fear and anxiety, a climate that is really not conducive to problem solving. However, fear is best managed through education, communication, and preparation. By not addressing concrete material safety issues and operating with ‘ostrich syndrome,’ schools are actually creating more fear and panic among parents and school officials. The key rests in context, balance, and reasonable efforts.
As a starting point, school administrators need to take into consideration:
-Participating in the development and periodic update of the school’s Threat Assessment.
-Develops the physical security plan and crime prevention plan.
-Conducts appropriate inspections, surveys, and vulnerability assessments.
-Participate in the overall assessment of school vulnerabilities.
-Coordinates with state and federal agencies for personal security vulnerability analysis of high-risk personnel.
-Participate in designating mission essential vulnerable areas (MEVA) and the orientation of planned protection for these areas.
-Review anti-terrorism programs to ensure programs are simpatico with others developed by other agencies.
-Participate in developing memorandums of understanding with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
While physical security is important, it should not stop there:
Assessing the risk of students being drawn into terrorism, which includes events like Columbine and the Florida shooting.
Schools should be assessing whether any students are at risk of being being a danger to the school. Reflections should be based on what is observed in school, off campus and online. There must be a trusted point of contact where other students can privately voice concerns. Those concerns should be considered actionable intelligence.
Working in partnership with local authorities
When creating safety policy, be sure to adhere to government guidance and refer to locally agreed inter-agency procedures.
Training staff to identify at-risk children
School staff must be trained and have the knowledge and confidence to identify children who are at risk. Staff must know where and how to refer children and young people for further help. Addressing these questions is the key to identifying training gaps and giving staff the skills they need. Prevent awareness training will play a key part in this.
These are all basic steps, but can we go further? Currently, we have outside agencies such as Therapeutic Interventions and Agape that provide counseling services to the schools. While these are highly professional firms that can readily identify aggressive students that are at risk to themselves and possibly others, should more training be invested in identifying even more dangerous behaviors, sometimes lurking in the more silent and quietly suffering students? The ones that may sneak a gun into school, learn to construct a plastic bomb or ignite a stick of dynamite in the cafeteria.