With summer in full swing, this is typically a time to take a break from our daily routines. But the tragedies over the last few months likely sent many off into their school year break more reflective than ever. Especially about how to recover, heal, and begin anew in the fall with a profound sense of safety and security in places of learning.
The attention to and investments in safety and security programs in schools is top of mind and agenda, without question. There are large scale infrastructure improvements being made, such as locking mechanisms, communications systems, and identification protocols. There are also reviews of lockdown drills, proposed audits of safety plans, and enhanced staff training. All of these are critical and help make up a comprehensive safety and security program, however, these are all relative in nature. Implementing proactive approaches to awareness of potential threats of harm could be one of the strongest measures schools can take.
In most of the school shootings or attempts, the intent to harm was shared via social media. Many [behavior specialists] agree these are ultimately cries for help, in which the student has either slipped through the cracks or avoided detection among parents or staff. The more that can be done to bring awareness to these cries for help, the better chance there is of connecting the troubled person to the proper mental and behavioral health services, and ideally, avert tragedies. As you assess your safety and security programs, here are some things to think about to ensure you are at the forefront of driving awareness.
- Ensure students and the community embrace the see something, say something model. Some schools have implemented a dedicated tip line for callers to remain anonymous while sharing potentially critical information.
- Update or review behavioral health assessments to ensure they are addressing the needs of the current environment.
- Collaborate with other districts and schools for best practices in safety protocols and training, and explore sharing technology resources if applicable.
- Implement a social media threat alert service (SMTAS), to efficiently and effectively keep a digital eye out for public posts containing language of harm. A SMTAS serves as a proactive measure against potential acts of violence and assists with keeping your community safe.
Sometimes the most violent threats are hiding in plain sight. We encourage communities to take tips and threats seriously and use the bridge of awareness to open doors to early communication and intervention.