OSPI School Safety Tips for April

Mike Donlin, Program Supervisor, School Safety Center, OSPI
Mar 30, 2021
Safety blog


Not too long ago, this School Safety blog for April was well underway. It was going to focus on two bills currently moving thru the legislature: ESHB 1214, which revises requirements around SROs and other school safety personnel, and SHB 1484 concerning the school mapping requirements.

However, other issues arose and, although quite different, seemed to roll together. The issues which I am referring to are the reopening of schools, youth behavioral and mental health issues, and the reappearance of mass shootings. The links here will take you to excellent resources and various pages of the OSPI website. 

It was in reading various other articles that the change of focus for this month clarified itself.  

In a recent Los Angeles Times article on reopening schools, Pasadena USD Superintendent Brian McDonald is quoted as saying, “This [reopening] weighs heavily on us…. Given the safety measures that we have in place,…we believe it’s time now to return our students to in-person learning.” PPEs, social distancing, air quality, hand washing, and now staff vaccinations are all among the considerations in such decisions.

With regard to the mental health of students, several articles have referred to the impact of pandemic-related  social isolation on mental and emotional well-being. Most make note of the fact that the impacts will need further, in depth, study. However, what is known is that the number of mental health-related emergency calls have increased nationally.

The third issue of mass shootings pulled everything else together. Danny Westneat’s recent Seattle Times article on “America’s other deadly contagion” sadly reminded us that, as COVID seems to be on the edge of being brought under control, mass shootings seem to be on the rise – again.  And as we know, schools are very often seen as so called ‘soft targets.’

I envisioned these three issues as a school safety-related Venn diagram:

Safety Blog Venn

All relate to students and staffs, communities, health, and preparedness. Schools are right in the middle. Where does this leave us? Where are we in terms of moving ahead? Our primary 5 safety preparedness Mission Areas of prevention, mitigation, protection, response, and recovery imply, but do not necessarily say, one critical feature: awareness. Be aware of the potential risks involved in all three areas of the diagram – especially as they roll together around schools.

Some thoughts as you plan to reopen:

  • Bring your safety team together to revisit your required comprehensive school safety plan.
  • Incorporate all the COVID/health safety measures you have and plan to implement.
  • Be sure to include your required plan to address emotional and behavioral supports.
  • Make sure that your Threat Assessment team and process are in place.
  • Realize that bullying and harassment may make reappearances both IRL and online.
  • Assess all of your risks, threats and hazards. Assess your strengths and resources, as well.

    Do a CPTED walk around your campus with your 1st responders.

  • As staff and students return to school, be sure that all the staff is trained on safety protocols and procedures;

    Be sure that students who have been away from the building for such a long time understand and practice (drill) for lockdowns, evacuations, shelter-in-place, and drop-cover-hold on.

  • Reemphasize: See something. Say something.

Of the five mission areas, we know that we can not prevent everything. Earthquakes, for example. Unfortunately, mass shooters, for another. But we can prepare. We can plan to mitigate damages We can plan to protect our students and staff, and we can respond to risks and threats. 

And as we plan, we can also hope and pray that we do not have to recover from emergencies we did not prepare for.

Thank you for all that you do to keep our schools safe.

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