The Value of Updating School Safety Policies and Procedures
Policies that keep students and staff safe go far beyond lockdown systems like The LockOut System. Every policy that a school puts in place is an opportunity to add layers of safety to the processes that students, staff, parents, and visitors work within on a given day. While safety policies should be a work in progress, there are some steps your school can take today to begin making each step of the school day safer and more secure.
Ask: Which Policies and Procedures Need To Change?
Does your school have some policies that may be outdated, or not in line with current facilities or equipment? Does it have emergency planning that doesn’t make sense with school size or facility changes? Have you put in a door barricade or school lockdown system but never really built plans around it? Questions like these help determine if your school needs some policy changes.
It’s important to consider the power imbalance and repeatability of the behavior. While it’s never appropriate behavior to harass or act aggressively toward another person, to be considered bullying, the above criteria must be met.
One change that our safety team has worked with schools to make that surprised us during implementation is school dropoff and pickup procedures. We found that the schools did not have a structured dropoff and pickup plan in place, or a backup pickup plan if a lockdown occurred at the school, so we worked with them to create those plans.
Many schools simply haven’t had time to keep up with changing safety policies and procedures. As mentioned above, if a capital investment was made, but the policies and procedures weren’t updated to keep pace, there could be a disconnect.
Evolving state and local laws can also force changes. Lawmakers are constantly working with local and state law-enforcement and fire departments to ensure that students, staff, and visitors are as safe as possible. It’s important to check these changes frequently and determine which of your policies or procedures may not meet new state guidelines.
Get Buy-In From Stakeholders
To ensure changes take place in a positive manner, it’s important to get buy-in from stakeholders that will be affected by the changes. Students, staff, and parents are the most important people to your school, and they should be given all pertinent information in a manner they can understand and have the ability to ask questions.
This open dialogue can take place at events like PTA meetings, school board meetings, open forums, or online. Not getting buy-in from stakeholders, including students is a big mistake when it comes to any changes made in your school. Especially today, students and parents are active in school policy as they have taken a great deal of ownership for their own safety. They want to be informed, and in doing so respected. By giving them the respect they deserve, you will smooth the process of actually implementing your changes.
Policy and procedure changes can have a sizeable impact on your students and staff. It could be a dress-code change to lessen an individual’s ability to hide weapons, or a situation we’ve seen more recently where students are required to wear clear backpacks.
You could be changing bus pickup and drop-off procedures, or adding additional entrance security. It’s possible that you may have installed a new door barricade device on doors, or implemented a full school lockdown system.
Whatever the case is, policy and procedure changes should be planned and made in concert with physical changes, and the policies and procedures themselves should be planned to minimally impact students when possible Simply having a resource officer tell students on the day changes are implemented that they are out of dress-code and need to change will do more harm than good as students will be confused and upset.
Even if the change is to be performed in the very near-future, all stakeholders should be provided ample information so they can prepare.
Implement Changes (Then Reevaluate)
After the changes have been planned and everyone involved has been given time to prepare, it’s time to make your changes. An important idea here is to remember not to be married to your changes. There may be bumps in the road, or you may not have been clear enough in your documentation and explanation to stakeholders and that information may not become apparent until you actually implement the changes.
It’s okay if things don’t go perfectly the first time. Trying to get a thousand different people to adhere to new rules is difficult, even if they’ve agreed to buy-in. Now is the time to reevaluate your implementation and get feedback from key people in your school. How are things working? Are people understanding the changes? Do they feel safer, better, worse? Continue to ask questions to understand the true value of your new policies and procedures, then look to continue to evolve them as more information becomes available.
Ensuring your school is the safest it can be is never an easy job. For every step forward in technology, equipment, legislation, or law-enforcement strategy, there are new policies and procedures to write and enact. It isn’t glamorous work, but it is vital to the safety of your school and the important people in it.