To assist you in the coming days, weeks, and months, we want to provide you with our current security measures;
- Access Control: We use access control measures with all our staff. We only admit people to our buildings once we have confirmed that they are who they say they are and that they have a legitimate reason to be there. We do not deviate from our policies and procedures. We know that our staff have the right to deny admittance to our building(s) and call law enforcement immediately if we consider something to be suspicious. We conduct periodic sweeps of the school and check for propped open doors.
- Safe2Tell Anonymous Reporting System: School safety is a shared responsibility. We frequently remind staff, parents, and students of the importance of reporting all safety concerns, including how to report (for example, through the anonymous reporting system, a trusted adult, or a school administrator.) Research shows that those who wish to do harm to others often tell someone about their plans.
It is often assumed that “someone else” has reported a concern, or it is believed to be something minor and that it is probably nothing to be concerned about. Empower staff and students to report it anyway, and to never assume that someone else has done so. Telling someone saves lives.
- Threat Assessment: Threat Assessment is considered a best practice for preventing targeted school violence. We currently use the U.S. The Secret Service recommended process for K12 schools.
Experience has shown there is a "contagion effect" that impacts communities after a highly publicized event such as this. Social media will likely play a role in upcoming incidents, so consider your role in monitoring and addressing this outlet and listening to your students reporting concerns. All threats are taken seriously.
- Social Media: With social media being such an important part of youth’s lives, we need to make extraordinary attempts to reach youth when these major events occur. Students are apt to look for support and connection with their peers through social media, and often assume that they should be able to cope with things on their own. That means students have only the level of wisdom of their peers to help see them through these difficult times, and adults and parents may have more difficulty in determining when they need additional support. Even very young children are exposed to news events and social media through friends, peers, and older siblings.
- Resources for Staff: Acts of targeted school violence, especially with staff shortages and the fallout from the pandemic, can especially exacerbate the mental health and coping skills of school staff. Please provide lists of providers or programs for staff to utilize as needed, including community mental health providers, substance use providers, the National Suicide Lifeline, programs through their Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), and other community resources. School staff also may be concerned about the mental wellness of their own children, so providing resources for children is also key.
The National Center for School Safety has also developed a resource Returning to School After a Crisis: A Guide to Addressing Traumatic Events at School. This guide is intended to support staff when returning to school following a crisis. It contains information about warning signs that a student is in distress, tips for talking and working with students as they return to school, and mental health resources.
- Resources for Parents: Parents may reach out for resources, and providing them with tips on how to have these important conversations can provide a sense of control and safety for families. The following message and the resource, Age-Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event, may be useful for parents:
As there will continue to be media coverage on these events in the coming days and weeks, it is worth taking a moment to think about the importance of starting the conversation in a way that will invite youth into the conversation and avoid making them defensive.
One way of doing that is making your child or student "the expert." So instead of mentioning the shooting and asking whether your child or student is anxious, consider framing it as, "There has been some coverage in the news about the recent school shooting. What have you heard?” And then just listen. Sometimes youth will answer “I don’t know” as a quick response to get adults to back off. When we are quiet and give them a moment to think about it and let them know that we really care about their answer, they will often give us answers which provide insight into their thoughts and concerns. We often jump in too quickly to reassure youth, which stops the conversation at that point. What they really want, and need, is for us to listen to them. It is far more effective to ask them to tell us more and come from a “curious” approach rather than giving them a lesson or lecture. Then, engage your child or student in conveying their thoughts about a range of ideas or possible solutions.
The greatest outcome of these conversations is when we leave youth knowing that we are willing to talk with them about anything and that we want to hear what they have to say. An expression in the crisis response community is "never waste a crisis," and this is your opportunity as well – don't waste this opportunity to connect deeply with your children or students. Setting the stage for more open communication about all kinds of things in the future is key.”