Articles in the School Security category

Kentucky district reassesses role of resource officers after Conn. shootings

Boone County Schools in Kentucky, home of National School Boards Association President C. Ed Massey, was featured in a Bloomberg story last week on the timely issue of arming school officials.

The National Rifle Association spurred a controversy on December 21 when it called for armed security guards in every U.S. public school in light of the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings in Connecticut.

Boone County Schools has hired nine sheriff’s deputies, armed with Glock .40-caliber pistols and tasers, to patrol its 23 schools, according to Bloomberg. The school board determined the policy after a 17-year-old high school junior killed his parents and two sisters, then held a class hostage at his high school.

While the focus has been on preventing violence at the middle and high schools, Superintendent Randy Poe told Bloomberg that the district is considering shifting some of its officers’ time to elementary schools. “It’s a new day,” Poe said. “You have to think differently here.”

Boone County was also featured in a Dec. 23 story by the New York Post on the school safety.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|December 27th, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Bullying, Crisis Management, Governance, High Schools, School Security|Tags: , , |

Experts show best practices for school safety plans in NSBA webinar

One week after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, school officials again are asking whether they have enough measures in place to try to prevent a similar tragedy.

Two school safety experts showed best practices and answered urgent questions during a Dec. 21 webinar, “Planning For and Managing the School Crisis You Hope Never Comes,” sponsored by the National School Boards Association’s Office of General Counsel and the Council of School Attorneys (COSA). The webinar was designed to be an overview of tactics and resources to prevent and respond to a wide range of catastrophes, from natural disasters, shootings and other crimes, or technological and medical emergencies, such as a pandemic flu.

School safety practices have evolved tremendously since the Columbine High School shootings 13 years ago, said presenter Shamus O’Meara, a partner with the Minneapolis law firm Johnson Condon, Attorneys at Law P.A., who represented and advised the Red Lake and Rocori school districts, both in Minnesota, in their school shooting incidents. The second presenter, Rick Kaufman, was the communications director for Colorado’s Jefferson County School District during the Columbine shootings and is executive director of community relations and emergency management for the Bloomington Public Schools, also in Minnesota.

School safety plans no longer involve a simple grid that lives in a drawer—instead, they are comprehensive plans that address strategies for prevention and mitigation, preparedness, recovery, and response. The presenters encouraged school districts to build such a plan in partnership with other agencies, including law enforcement, local government, and public health. School climate and programs to deal with issues such as bullying are key to preventing incidents as well.

Out of more than 180 participants on the webinar, 86 percent reported having reviewed their school districts’ safety plan in the past year, which is a good sign, O’Meara said.

An important consideration is community involvement and recognizing the community’s values when making choices within a comprehensive plan, he added.

School officials should also practice those crisis plans regularly and ensure all new staff are adequately trained. An outside safety audit can correct weaknesses and a safety team can address ongoing needs and new issues that arise.

The speakers did not make any recommendations on the issue of allowing school administrators or teachers to carry guns. Another issue that surfaced on Friday was a proposal by the National Rifle Association (NRA) for a national school safety program that would pay for armed school safety officers at any school that wanted one. Major issues to consider include how to train school staff and how frequently, how the guns would be carried or stored, and whether the money could be better spent on other violence prevention programs, O’Meara said.

If a disaster does occur, Kaufman offered these–and many other–recommendations for communications with parents, school staff, and the media:

  • Mobilize a response team that shields the site, students, and staff from outside forces;
  • Make a call for assistance before it’s too late;
  • Understand it’s not “business as usual”;
  • Act in the short-term, but think in the long-term;
  • Know key messages and stick to them;
  • Don’t allow media to dominate school officials’ time, attention.

School districts looking for resources to update or revamp their existing school safety plans should first contact their state school boards association, COSA Director Sonja Trainor suggested.

An audio recording of the webinar is available on NSBA’s school safety resources website. Other resources that the speakers recommended include:

OSHA Statutory Requirement

National Fire Protection Association; NFPA 1600 Emergency Preparedness Standard: Voluntary standards for prevention, mitigation, preparation, response and recovery from emergencies for public, non-profit and private entities

National Incident Management System (NIMS)

The Final Report and Findings of The Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States; U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education

Prior Knowledge of Potential School-Based Violence: Information Students Learn May Prevent a Targeted Attack U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education

 U.S. Department of Education guidance on FERPA, October 2007

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Education Office of Safe and Healthy Students

FEMA

U.S. Department of Education Emergency Planning

Emergency Response and Crisis Management Technical Assistance (TA) Center

Practical Information on Crisis Planning

“Emergency Exercises: An Effective Way to Validate School Safety Plans,” ERCM Express Newsletter, U.S. Department of Education

 A Guide to Vulnerability Assessments: Key Principles for Safe Schools, U.S. Department of Education

Action Guide for Institutions of Higher Learning, U.S. Department of Education

School Safety: Lessons Learned, U.S. Attorneys Office, Minn.

Complete Crisis Communication and Management Manual, National School Public Relations Association, Rick Kaufman (2009)

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|December 21st, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Bullying, Council of School Attorneys, School Security|Tags: , , , |

Schools safer in the wake of Columbine shootings and 9/11, say educators and security experts

Ronald D. Stephens has worked in school security for nearly 28 years. As executive director of the National School Safety Center in California, he’s consulted with school officials in places linked forever with school shootings — places like Red Lake, Minn.; Paducah, Ky., Broward County, Fla.; and Littleton, Colo.

But, in one sense, Newtown, Conn., is different, Stephens said.

“I have never seen a school shooting that has been so vicious, so heartless, so callous” as the one that killed 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Stephens said.

The majority of the victims, as much of the world now knows, were 6- and 7-year-olds. Six adults were also shot and killed at the school, including the gunman, Adam Lanza, who took his own life and that of his mother, whom he shot in their home before driving to the school.

Given the horrific nature of the crime, the next point Stephens made might be hard for the public to grasp: Children are safer in school than outside of it. About 100 times safer, if you do the math — and Stephens has.

Since the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999, districts have done many things to make schools safer. They’ve installed security systems and initiated better screening of visitors. Many have hired school resource officer. And they’ve adopted school safety plans, which anticipate threats and specify what adults and children will do in the event of everything from earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes, to a gunman on campus.

“After Columbine, there was a lot more emphasis placed on safe school plans,” said Eric Sparks, assistant director of the American School Counselor Association.

No longer simply a vague plan “sitting on a shelf,” the safe schools plan became a working document that addressed specific threats, including the threat of violence. Schools also took training for students and staff more seriously. They had lockdown drills and practiced the routines they would need to follow in case of emergency.

It’s perhaps hard to imagine anything worse than what happened at Sandy Hook. Yet without the kind of training staff members received — and the extraordinary degree of courage and composure they displayed — the Dec. 14 shootings might have claimed even more lives.

“As horrific as the tragedy was in Newtown, it could have been much worse had the teachers, the staff, the principal, the administrators not followed the lockdown procedures they had been trained to follow, had they not actually taken the children and secluded them, really depriving the killer of further targets,” NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón said on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal. “So it was their training to basically ferret out the children — keeping them safe, keeping them calm — that made this a less horrific tragedy than it could have been, in terms of numbers.”

In the days after the shooting, Negrón also spoke on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” where he said that the recent shooting by an external gunman represented “a turning point” in the discussion of school safety. He said this should elicit discussions between district officials and law enforcement about how to deal with a shooter from outside the school community. In the wake of Columbine and other school shootings, schools focused on internal issues, such as school climate and bullying, and on identifying students with mental problems. This kind of effort, while essential, does not address a threat posed from outside.

Negrón told C-SPAN that moves to arm teachers and administrators, which have been suggested by Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and others, are not the answer because school staff members are not routinely trained in law enforcement.

“Teachers and administrators are hired to teach our children,” Negrón said. “That’s a very different skill set [from law enforcement].”

Sparks, of the American School Counselor Association, agreed.

“Having school staff with guns — that would be a challenging situation in terms of training and school safety,” Sparks said. “And it takes a whole different angle on the possibility of things going wrong.”

That could include gun accidents and other unintended consequences of adding firepower to some 120,000 places across the country that were designed for learning – what Stephens likened to creating “120,000 Fort Knoxes.” Is that the kind of climate we want for our children? he asked.

And even these actions would not ensure protection from a heavily armed intruder, unconcerned for his own life and bent on mass murder, Stephens said.

“I don’t know of a school district in America that is prepared to deal with assault-style attacks on their campuses.”

Lawrence Hardy|December 21st, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Crisis Management, School Buildings, School Climate, School Security|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

State school boards associations offer support and resources after Newtown school shootings

When word arrived that a number of students and adults had been gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the staff at the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) recognized the need to offer immediate support to that town’s school board.

So, by the next morning, a crisis communications expert on contract with CABE was in Newtown to help school leaders with the media frenzy that descended on the school system—and to help provide whatever comfort and reassurances the district could provide to a shocked and distraught community.

“She was with the superintendent through most of Saturday [the day after the shooting],” says CABE Executive Director Robert J. Rader. “We also reached out to the school district that was going to take in some of those kids from Sandy Hook,” which was closed immediately after the shootings.

Meeting the needs of school boards was clearly on the minds of state school boards associations across the nation in the aftermath of the Dec. 14 shootings, the deadliest mass killing at a K-12 public school since a 1927 bombing in Bath, Mich. At Sandy Hook, 20 children—ages 6 and 7—and six adults died at the hands of a 20-year-old armed with an assault rifle and two handguns.

None was as proactive in the hours after the tragic shootings, however, than CABE, whose headquarters is only 50 miles from Sandy Hook.

In addition to offering its services to the Newtown school board, CABE rushed to post a “Dealing with Tragedy” webpage that listed resources for school boards seeking guidance on how to talk to students and parents about the shootings, as well as tips for dealing with the media and reviewing school safety measures. The new webpage was posted by Sunday evening, about 48 hours after association officials first learned of the shootings.

“We wanted people to have this information before school started on Monday,” Rader says.

In days following the shootings, many state associations found the most immediate need of local school leaders was to reassure the public that their community schools were safe—and that sound security practices were in place in each school.

Mirroring the quick response of CABE, the Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA) quickly posted a new webpage with a list of more than 50 online resources that school boards could access to help them with school safety issues and to respond to student, staff, and parent concerns about the shootings.

“We sent [a notice of the list] to every superintendent, every school board member, every school communications person that we had emails for in the state,” says Brad Hughes, director of member support services director for KSBA.

KSBA also provided regular reports on its online news service about media coverage of the shootings and how Kentucky school boards were responding to the incident. The goal, Hughes said, was to allow school officials to learn more about how their peers statewide were handling media attention and public concerns.

In Colorado, where school safety has been on the minds of school officials since the tragic 1999 shootings at Columbine High School, school boards are well versed in school safety issues and haven’t expressed much concern about reviewing their school safety plans, says Kristine Woolley, director of communications for the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB).

The most immediate concern among school leaders was to reassure the public about the safety of their schools, she says. Much of the communications among local school districts has taken place on a private list serve of school public relations directors.

“They are the ones who are information-sharing,” she says. “It’s a pretty active group. They’ve been talking: ‘I’ve got this issue in my district,’ and everybody jumps on board with ‘This is what we did in the past’ and ‘Here’s as sample of what we did’ or ‘Here’s how we responded.’”

The Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA) and the Missouri Department of Public Safety established the Missouri Center for Education Safety a few years ago. This partnership provides school safety expertise and resources to Missouri school districts. It is headed up by Paul Fennewald, the former director of the Missouri Office of Homeland Security. Brent Ghan, chief communications officer for MSBA interviewed Fennewald this week. The interview is posted on the MSBA website and on YouTube.

The Massachusetts Association of School Committees also has made available information about school safety issues, says Michael Gilbert, a MASC field director who consults with school boards. He says much of the conversation he’s heard among school leaders has centered on what steps schools already have taken to improve school safety—and the need to communicate that to the public.

One reason the state’s school officials are more confident in speaking to the public was that a new state mandate required an update of school security measures to include a first-response plan involving police, fire, and medical agencies, he says.

“Following Columbine, I watched the overreaction of many of our school boards to the immediacy of some of the information that came from that tragedy,” he says. For example, after some media accounts reported the shooters had worn trench coats, some school boards started banning these coats from schools.

“I’m not seeing that type of overreaction today,” Gilbert says. “I think our members are being much more thoughtful.”

In Pennsylvania, most school boards appear to have matters well in hand, says Steve Robinson, director of public relations for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA). “Many school districts have been proactive in contacting parents in some way, whether through automated calling systems or postings on their websites—just to remind parents of what procedures exist, to alleviate the fears that parents have, to remind them that their schools are safe.”

The similar experience is reported by the New York State School Boards Association, where Deputy Director of Communications Barbara Bradley says there hasn’t been an “uptick in calls” since the shootings.

“We saw that school districts were being proactive in getting messages out to their communities—that they were reviewing their security measures and making sure everything was in place,” she says. “And they’re reassuring parents in the community that the schools were safe.”

One of the more positive responses to the Sandy Hook tragedy came a few days after the shootings when OSBA was invited by state Attorney General Mike DeWine to participate in a new state initiative to review school safety.

“It’s encouraging that the Ohio Attorney General’s Office reached out to us and wants to include us in the conversation,” says OSBA Executive Director Richard Lewis.

As it happens, OSBA has developed a new school safety consulting program, led by the former head of the National Association of School Resource Officers. It’s a program that Lewis says was garnering interest from school boards even before the Sandy Hook tragedy.

“I suspect this is going to create so many conversations,” he says. “So many people are going to be looking for answers and solutions.”

One issue that OSBA hopes will be part of the conversation is the need to expand mental health services—for both students and community members, Lewis says. “We think that a key to school safety isn’t so much about coming up with more plans for school lockdowns and evacuations … but rather to spend some time on prevention.”

That thinking already is a part of the conversation in Connecticut, Rader says. CABE has met with a number of education associations and business community representatives to talk about their position on issues that might arise in the next state legislative session. One of those issues is likely to be the access and funding available for mental health services.

“We have a list serve of our school board chairs, and they’ve been discussing these issues and what they want to do in their own districts.”

State association officials say the repercussions of Sandy Hook will not be fully clear for some time. But many report a gratifying sense of camaraderie and mutual support among school boards across the nation. OSBA, for example, shared a message with CABE and the Newtown school board that an Ohio school board member—whose district also had endured a school shooting—was passing along her email and telephone number if she could help.

“It speaks volumes about the compassion that school board members have for one another,” Lewis says.

Del Stover|December 20th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Crisis Management, School Security, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Video: NSBA discusses school safety on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal”

Francisco M. Negrón Jr., General Counsel of the National School Boards Association, was featured on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” on Dec. 19 discussing school safety and  how school boards across the U.S. develop and implement emergency plans.

Alexis Rice|December 19th, 2012|Categories: NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, School Law, School Security, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , , |

Safety experts to advise school leaders in NSBA webinar

The school shootings in Newtown, Conn., have left school leaders searching for ways to make sure they are keeping their students, staff, and communities safe from harm.

When looking for advice, it’s best to seek out people who have experience – and Shamus O’Meara and Rick Kaufman certainly fit the bill. O’Meara, a partner with the Minneapolis law firm Johnson Condon, Attorneys at Law P.A., represented and advised the Red Lake and Rocori school districts in their school shooting incidents. Kaufman was the communications director for Colorado’s Jefferson County School District during the Columbine High School shootings 13 years ago.

Both men will be featured in a free webinar for school leaders, administrators, and school attorneys: “Planning For and Managing the School Crisis You Hope Never Comes.” The webinar, sponsored by NSBA’s Office of General Counsel and the Council of School Attorneys (COSA) will be held Friday from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. EST. Register at https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/219019864.

“We hope that this webinar provides school leaders and attorneys with a solid foundation for review or development of school emergency plans and procedures,” says Sonja Trainor, director of COSA. “We are deeply thankful to Shamus O’Meara and Rick Kaufman, both national experts on school emergency planning and response, for giving their time and expertise for this webinar.”

O’Meara will discuss the importance of school safety plans as “living and breathing, not stuck in drawers,” he says. “School leaders, administrator, parents, and students — everyone involved with the school should take ownership of plan, so we are safely educating our students.”

In the decade since the Columbine High School shootings and 9/11, awareness about the need for security in public buildings, including schools, has been heightened, says O’Meara. And schools also have recognized that they are not alone in dealing with security and safety issues.

“A number of partners have to be involved, not just law enforcement,” he says. “Mental health, counseling services, and social services – they all need to be part of a dialog that is in turn part of school safety planning.”

One aspect of a good safety plan is how to communicate to parents, staff, students, and the community during and after a crisis. Kaufman, who is now director of community relations and emergency management for Minnesota’s Bloomington Public Schools, lived through the nightmare of Columbine.

The Columbine shootings changed the landscape of school security and raised questions of school climate. The biggest change that Kaufman has seen since the Colorado shootings has been the rise of social media use and the speed in which information travels. He encourages school districts to consider communications through many different ways.

“Districts must respond very quickly through different channels. If your district doesn’t use social media, you will be caught behind the eight ball in dealing with the crisis,” he says. “You can’t rely on just email or a rapid notification system.”

Through his work with the National School Public Relations Association, Kaufman helped in the development of rapid response teams of school communications professionals that are available to help districts that are dealing with a crisis.

O’Meara and Kaufman will offer strategies and resources for school leaders, and will be responding to questions during the webinar.

 

Kathleen Vail|December 19th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Announcements, Board governance, School Buildings, School Climate, School Law, School Security|Tags: |

NSBA speaks out on school safety

Francisco M. Negrón Jr., General Counsel of the National School Boards Association, was featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered” as schools re-examine safety and security following the Newtown, Conn. school shooting. Negrón noted that “schools are going to try to understand whether or not they need to change their policies accordingly.”

Negrón is also scheduled to be on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” on Wednesday morning, Dec. 19 from 8:45-9:15 am EST discussing school safety. You can watch it live online or on C-SPAN and C-SPAN Radio. It will also recorded and will be available in the C-SPAN archive. If you watch the “Washington Journal” live, we encourage you to call-in, tweet, or email Negrón a question.

Call-In Numbers:
Democrats:  202-585-3880
Republicans: 202-585-3881
Independents: 202-585-3882
Outside U.S.:  202-585-3883

Email: journal@c-span.org

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cspanwj

Alexis Rice|December 18th, 2012|Categories: School Law, School Security, Teachers|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

School security articles available at American School Board Journal

In her 2006 article, “A Measured Approach,” which was written after several school shootings by individuals with no connection to the schools, American School Board Journal editor Naomi Dillon wrote: “From fostering a positive and inviting school climate, to teaching and modeling good behavior, to encouraging students and staff to be the eyes and ears of the building, schools can do a lot to make themselves unsuitable targets for unstable individuals.”

The horrific events in Newtown, Conn., have most of us looking for answers again. As school leaders, you are searching anew for information on security – disaster planning, safeguards, and the kind of prevention described in Dillon’s article. ASBJ can help provide that information for you: The magazine has published many articles on school safety for school leaders over the years. Usually only open to subscribers or available for purchase, the articles will be open to the public at our topical archive, Safe From Harm.

At the top of the list of articles is a look back at the Columbine shootings – interviews with the principal, counselor, superintendent, communications official, and others who experienced the events on that day in 1999.

Other articles include: “Communicating During a Crisis,” by school safety expert Ken Trump, who gives tips on how make sure your schools have well-developed and exercised safety and crisis plans and your staff is trained to implement them.

In “Safe From Harm,” ASBJ law columnist Ed Darden notes that a get-tough stance is tempting, but compassion and conversations are just as important.

Dillon writes of the importance of disaster planning in “Do You Have a Disaster Plan?”

Many other articles are available for reading and for download.  Please give us your feedback on what other kinds of security articles you’d find most useful.

 

 

Kathleen Vail|December 17th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Crisis Management, School Buildings, School Climate, School Law, School Security|Tags: , , , , , |

NSBA expresses condolences on Newtown, Conn., school shooting

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) expresses its deep sympathies to those affected by the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on the morning of December 14.

“Tears are being shed in Connecticut and across the United States for the families of those killed or injured in the Newtown school shooting,” said C. Ed Massey, President of the National School Boards Association and member of Kentucky’s Boone County Board of Education. “It is a tragedy. Our hearts and our prayers go out to the students, schools staff, parents, and all of those affected.

NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel added: “Although details of this horrible tragedy are still emerging, we know that schools generally are the safest place children can be. NSBA will assist our colleagues in the Newtown Public Schools, their Board of Education, and our state association, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, in any way that we can.”

Joetta Sack-Min|December 14th, 2012|Categories: School Security|Tags: , , , , , |

School security issues at the forefront of December ASBJ

Vandalism — destroying school property — remains a constant problem for many if not all school districts. Senior Editor Del Stover, in American School Board Journal’s December cover story, online now, looks at ways that districts combat the issue. Cameras, lighting, and extra personnel are all options. However, some districts are looking at how caring  relationships among adults and students can be the ultimate deterrent.

Also in the new issue: After a national report revealed that black and hispanic students are suspended at a higher rate than white students, many schools are backing off from rigid zero-tolerance policies. Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy chronicles how districts are working to decriminalize student discipline.

When you visit ASBJ online, take the Adviser Facebook poll on whether school security cameras work and check out our webinar offerings.

Kathleen Vail|December 4th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, School Buildings, School Climate, School Law, School Security|
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