The following is a post that I wrote in 2012, hoping that I would only have to publish it once. This is now the fourth time I have shared it. Hopefully, this time will be the last.
Over the upcoming days, weeks and months there will be considerable hand wringing, finger pointing and second guessing when it comes to analyzing the tragedy of last week. There is little positive to come from this. An irrational actor, with a mission and no exit strategy, attacked the school. A perfect storm of unmitigated evil.
In my education leadership career, I do have some unique experience and expertise in school security. Here are some things that I recommend you should do to review your campus security procedures and practices, today. This checklist is quick, practical, reasonable and actionable.
1. Keep your exterior doors and windows secured at all times. This may mean that locks need to be replaced and keys need to be inventoried and redistributed. This should have been done before, do it now. Stop the practice of people propping doors open when they go outside. Constantly remind staff and students the seriousness of exterior door safety. Be diligent in modeling and monitoring this practice and dealing with those that forget and break protocol.
2. Review and practice alert, evacuation, and shelter-in-place procedures. Regularly, not just on the last day of the month. Immediately stop the practice of warning staff when there is going to be a drill. It defeats the purpose of the drill and creates the learned behavior of, “Checking to see if it is a real emergency.” Also, there should be drills conducted on days when campus leadership is not available. Emergencies can occur at any time. Practice accordingly.
3. Keep your head on a swivel. Stay alert. When it comes to their surroundings, most adults operate in a fog throughout the day. This is where you can actually use students to help with security. They are much more alert than we give them credit for. Teach them to monitor our shared surroundings (visitor badges, unlocked doors, open windows, damaged equipment, unsafe conditions, etc.) and quietly report to their teacher. Make it a game.
4. (NEW) Allow any adult or student on the campus to initiate a lockdown. This bears repeating, allow any person on the campus (adult or student) to initiate a lockdown. Most campuses require a previously identified administrator or team to authorize a lockdown of a campus. That person or persons may not be readily available when an imminent danger is identified. So for a lockdown, eliminate the middleman and secure the school first. Then only lift the lockdown at the direction of a key administrator or a public safety officer.
5. When something seems off, listen to your gut. If you gut is wrong, all you did was take an extra precaution. If your gut is right, you prevented or reduced the severity of a difficult situation.
6. (NEW) Provide students and teachers with a phone script. Pre-write a basic, fill-in-the-blank, “Here’s what happened, now we’re safe, how to get me,” script for students and teachers. As soon as the situation is stable, hand out the scripts and have the students and staff call their loved ones on their cell phones and follow the script. They are going to call anyway. So manage the situation and reduce the amount incorrect information and panic that is generated from any school safety incident.
7. Plan for the worst. Pray for the best. We should not turn our campuses into armed camps and we cannot live in fear. But we should be prudent and take reasonable precautions.
This is a tough time to be an educator. But this is also a proud time. We have peers who have paid the ultimate price to protect our children. We will not forget that. And still we man our posts because the job is important and it is what we do. We Are Teachers.
Think. Work. Achieve.
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