How Safe is Your School Really? A Potentially Uncomfortable Self-Assessment

Ensuring the safety of students is the primary mission of all educators. Yet sadly, it is also an area where educators feel largely unprepared or have received little training.  As one school year closes and planning for another begins, this is the perfect time to critically reflect on the state of school safety in your district and develop plans for improvement.

Let’s begin by critically examining several of the most important areas of concern:

Is your district still utilizing a traditional lockdown procedure for active shooter response (lock the door, hide out, wait for law enforcement)? In June 2013, the Department of Education and FEMA released updated guidelines for best practices in schools that incorporate rapid evacuation and barricading as response capabilities. If your staff and students do not how to use these options, it is critical to update both your lockdown procedures AND provide adequate training.

Does your district have a Threat Assessment Team? According to the U.S. Department of Education, one of the most useful tools a school can develop is a multidisciplinary threat assessment team. Threat assessment is a means by which educators can identify students who are at risk for violence against themselves or others, assess the level of risk and develop appropriate supports and interventions. Most importantly, threat assessment is an effective violence prevention measure that examines threats of all kinds, not just an active shooter situation.

Has your district had a vulnerability assessment to examine the current level of safety and security within each building? A vulnerability assessment identifies potential deficiencies and generates recommendations for improvement. An effective vulnerability assessment comes from multiple perspectives – educational, legal, emergency response – not just a security point of view and should include an intruder assessment, a policy review, a mitigation plan, and a leadership team de-briefing.

Does your school have a formalized, updated plan for parent reunification? In the immediate aftermath of a crisis event, the primary responsibility of the school is to ensure the safe and timely return of students to their parents. A plan for parent reunification cannot be developed “on the fly” in the emotional post-crisis chaos.

If you answered no to one or more of these questions, don’t despair, instead get busy! As a non-profit, it is the mission of the Educator’s School Safety Network to assist schools with safety planning and training. We can help you make the 2016-2017 school year safer. Contact us at