The U.S. Department of Justice has identified school safety assessments as the top ‘essential action’ schools, school districts and law enforcement agencies can take to improve campus safety, according to a recent report released by DoJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
The report states that a comprehensive risk assessment that identifies the highest-probability threats, their potential consequences, and the school or school district’s vulnerabilities to those threats is the “foundation for all school safety and security planning and operations.”
Assessments are number one out of 10 essential actions described in the DoJ report. These actions are needed to “prevent mass casualty attacks in our nation’s schools and, when prevention is not enough, to respond rapidly and effectively to end the threat as quickly as possible to save lives.”
In further acknowledgment of the vital need for an all-hazards approach that every school safety professional should adopt, the report goes on to note that “critical actions described in this document are applicable not only to school shootings but also to all areas of school safety, including weather disasters and traumatic events such as student suicide.”
Each action is further defined as being in support of either a school community’s mental and emotional security or its physical safety. This is a critical distinction, and no school can focus on one but not the other.
Since 2014, Haystax has helped states and school districts ensure the security and safety of their students, staff and facilities. Assessments are an integral part of our school safety solution, along with campus data management, incident and field reporting, event management for safety drills and other scheduled activities and digital threat monitoring.
We have long advocated not just for school facility assessments but also more recently for wider adoption of behavioral threat assessments, as a way of better anticipating and averting tragedies like active shooter incidents initiated by a school’s own students. (Indeed, the report lists behavioral threat assessment and management as its sixth essential action.)
The remaining eight essential actions identified in the DoJ report are, in order:
- School climate
- Campus, building and classroom security
- Anonymous reporting systems
- Coordination with first responders
- School-based law enforcement
- Mental health resources
- Social media monitoring
Finally, the report outlines five guiding principles on which all essential actions list should be predicated:
- A balanced approach to enhance safety and security in the learning environment
- A holistic approach that reflects physical safety, mental health and personal connections to the school community
- A multidisciplinary approach that involves school personnel – including teachers, administrators, counselors, mental health professionals and support staff such as janitors and school bus drivers – as well as law enforcement, other first responders, community-based resources and families
- A focus on attack prevention via intervention rather than solely victim mitigation
The full report, Ten Essential Actions to Improve School Safety, can be downloaded here.
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Note: At Haystax, school safety is our passion. To find out more about our pioneering risk-based approach, download our free white paper, Managing School Safety in the 21st Century.