A FEW NOTES AROUND THE DISTRICT
Last week, I shared some thoughts about practices and procedures to enhance safety, particularly those things we can do around school buildings and buses, as we have settled back into the routine of the school year! Our goal is to provide safe environments for our students!
I would like to continue with the theme this week by looking at a few other ideas related to safe school environments. We have a number of policies and procedures that we implement to encourage protection and safety for students.
POLICY AND PROCEDURES
The start of the school year is often the time schools make concerted efforts to highlight policies and procedures on a variety of safety issues. As we reviewed last week, there are obvious things with bus and transportation safety, but there are other policies that we review as well.
As a school, we work hard on issues of fire safety, emergency procedures, bully prevention efforts and other district safety policies. I would like to take a little bit of time to review some of these issues as they relate to state requirements or district policies.
Fire safety is an issue that schools have practiced for many years! Students and staff have become very aware of fire prevention efforts and often, because of safety tips learned through school, help to improve fire safety within their own homes.
I often hear students repeat the phrase, “stop, drop and roll.” This phrase comes directly out of fire safety training. If an individual has clothing that catches fire or has some garment that is in flames, the instructions to help remedy the situation include stopping what you are doing (stop), dropping to the ground or floor (drop), and rolling on the floor or ground (roll) to extinguish the flames. This practice is taught at a very young age—as students are able to visit the fire hall and learn from fire personnel how to deal with situations involving open flame!
We are required, by the state of Minnesota, to conduct fire drills regularly throughout the school year at each school site. At one time, we were required to conduct nine fire drills in a school year—essentially, the equivalent of one drill each month.
Because the fire drill process has been so successful, the requirements have been revised to incorporate other procedures. We are still required to do nine drills during a year, but five of them are fire drills and four of them are emergency, lock-down drills.
Schools are required, now, to practice other emergency procedures. Specifically, we are required to practice the process of locking down a school building. We must conduct at least four lock-downs each year.
A lock-down can vary in the scope of its intensity. In the ROCORI system, we have a range from locking down all the external doors but allowing full movement of students within the building to a complete lock-down in which all doors—external and internal—are also locked, everyone moves away from any exposed areas (windows and doors), and no one moves within the building.
The purpose and function of the lock-down can vary depending on the kind of activity for which the lock-down is imposed. The least restrictive lock-downs (allowing movement inside the buildings) might be applied when there is some kind of threat or activity in the community or outside the building but it does not impose an immediate danger to students inside. The most restrictive lock-downs would be applied when there is a high-risk situation posing immediate danger to students and staff inside the building.
In addition to the lock-downs, our emergency policies include provisions for a variety of crisis or other emergency situations. We have procedures addressing a variety of settings—intruders, chemicals, spills, explosions, weather, and many other situations. Although you can’t plan for every situation and every condition that might occur, the procedures provide general guidance and great direction for many different emergency situations.
An area of safety that has received, and continues to receive, considerable attention is the issue of bully prevention. This issue has drawn national, state, local, and building level attention in efforts to change behaviors and cultural attitudes about what is and is not acceptable behavior.
We have policies and procedures that address bullying behavior. The policies are in place at the district, building and classroom levels. We ask students and staff to be attentive to the activities and behaviors around them and to be proactive with issues of bullying behavior.
We know, from research and experience, that the most effective tool against bullying behavior is for a single individual, usually an adult, to take the step to intervene—to say that the behavior is not acceptable.
The other element that is critically important in addressing the issue of bullying behavior is for the victim of the behavior to report what is happening to another person who can assist or intervene. Most issues of bullying are never reported, but it is critical to make a report to someone. Without reporting the behavior to someone, the bullying behavior is rarely ever stopped.
Bully prevention efforts, in particular, rely not only on school activity but involve parent and community engagement to be successful. Role models, public examples, positive influence, positive interventions, appropriate responses when confronted with the issue of bullying, and other evidence of opposition to bullying behaviors are all necessary to reduce the instances of bullying behaviors.
We do take the time to review our policies and to encourage positive steps on bullying issues. It is important, as well, for parents and community to join in those efforts.
I received the following information from the United States Department of Education in a mailing just this week. It is a federal contest on Bully Prevention open to young people. It would be a great opportunity for youth in our community to show efforts to promote positive steps against bullying behaviors!
The Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention, encourage youth to submit original PSAs, 30 to 60 seconds in length, that showcase ways they are taking action against bullying and promoting a culture of kindness and respect in their communities. They are looking for informative and entertaining videos that a send positive message to youth about the importance of being “more than a bystander” to bullying in their schools and communities. The deadline for submission is October 14, and the top prize is $2,000. Full details about the contest, including submission guidelines and rules for eligibility are available at http://stopbullying.challenge.gov.
There are a lot of things we can do, as students, staff, parents, and community members, to help improve student safety at school. Although there are many different things that can be done, common sense and basic legislation essentially outline the core elements of good school safety practices. All of the safety issues are designed to provide a quality environment for our students.