Back to School Month 2022: Best Practices for Helping Students and Staff Feel Safer at School

Back to School

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August is Back-to-School month, and many parents, school staff and students may feel understandably anxious about a return to the 2022 school year after the tragic event at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde Texas. In fact, a timely report released by Safe and Sound Schools revealed gaps in feelings and perceptions about school safety, especially amongst students. 

“Now more than ever, it is critical that school communities engage all stakeholders––from students to superintendents––in conversation and decision-making to protect our most sacred spaces and precious community members, our schools and our students,” said Michele Gay, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Safe and Sound Schools in a July 26, 2022 press release. 

Ensure Unwanted Visitors Do Not Make It Through the Front Door

Make sure you know who is in your schools at all times. The best visitor management systems for schools instantly screen each visitor’s government-issued ID card against the sex offender registries in all 50 states and your customized database(s). These customized, locally owned lists can include individuals with custodial restrictions, banned or restricted access, and expelled students.  

This screening should happen every time a visitor logs into the system. If a visitor does not have an acceptable form of ID, your system should allow you to manually enter the visitor’s information for screening and tracking purposes, as well as take a photo with an integrated webcam.  

Build a Culture of School Safety That Involves Multiple Stakeholders

Limiting the discussion of school safety to only the people who are on the safety team leaves schools unprepared to handle emergencies. In a recent webinar, Safe Kids, Inc. Co-Founder Adam Coughran, and former Associate Director of Texas School Safety Center Jeff Caldwell shared their experiences focusing on building relationships with students as well as the importance of communication and collaboration between teachers, admin, law enforcement, mental health professionals, and others in the community to create safe schools.  

According to Adam, the three pillars of school safety are: 

Physical – Examples include fences, cameras, and school safety software. Things schools implement to enhance the feeling of safety within the building or campus. 

Training and knowledge – School staff must be trained to utilize resources to their fullest and be encouraged to participate in safety drills so that everyone is prepared in the event of an actual emergency. 

Community – Engaging members of your community, such as parents and neighbors who live near the school and having discussions with them about what can be done to enhance safety.  

Support the Mental Wellbeing of Every Student: Intervene Early and Stop Possible Violence

Feeling safe is not just about metal detectors, stronger doors, and security cameras. While the fear of an active shooter gaining access to a school is very real, so is the fear of being bullied, teased, or harassed by peers. A student may be suffering from anxiety or depression which can escalate to bigger problems and even violence. School administrators and counselors have notoriously limited resources and funding needed to address low level concerns before things get escalated to a full Behavorial Threat Assessment (BTA). 

That is why connecting the dots of low-level incidents is so important and was the topic of a recent webinar, where a panel of experts explored how to better support the mental wellbeing of every student.  

Topics of discussion included: 

  • The importance of early intervention 
  • Aspects of behavioral threat assessment 
  • How it works in the real world of hallways, classrooms, lunchrooms, school buses, and beyond.  
  • The principles of safeguarding, an effective methodology used throughout the UK for student wellbeing 
  • How principles of safeguarding can be applied to US schools  

Related Resources

Guide to K-12 Student Wellbeing
Strategies to Recognize, Document, and Support Students in Distress.
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