Keeping Kids Safe: It’s Everyone’s Job
By Nora Howley, Manager of Programs, NEA Health Information Network
School safety is more than just having a plan. It’s a process that needs to involve the whole school community.
LaPorte Community School Corporation is a rural school district in northwest Indiana. It’s also a great example of a district that has brought everyone to the table to help keep kids safe.
I recently joined Donna Nielsen, a bus driver and NEA member, and Glade Montgomery, the superintendent, on a panel led by Roxanne Dove of NEA’s Education Support Professional Quality Department (ESPQ) at the National Forum on School Improvement. We were there to share what LaPorte is doing right and talk about what other districts can do to protect their students.
At the heart of the LaPorte story is the simple idea that everyone needs to be involved in the plan. Every staff member sees the plan from a different perspective. An idea that sounds good to the central office might not make sense to staff in the building.
LaPorte has also recognized that “the day begins and ends on the bus.” That means that bus drivers need to have safety plans, understand them, and be able to implement in case something happens on the way to/from school.
The ability to put all this into practice starts with leadership from the top. Superintendent Montgomery shared his four “non-negotiables” for the school system:
- A culture of cooperation/communication
- No negativity
- Take care of your family and yourself
- Treat everyone with dignity and respect all the time and every day
As Donna Nielsen stressed, it was that culture that has allowed for regular professional development for bus drivers, expanded participation in school safety teams by head custodians, and nurtured an ongoing commitment to practicing and drilling to make sure the plans work. School district staff works with community emergency response, police, and government to hold table-top exercises and communicate. In fact, the local police and fire departments have school facility floor plans and master keys, just in case.
This approach extends to the families of students. In the days after the Newtown shooting, every family (as well as every staff person) got a series of recorded calls from the superintendent explaining what the district was doing to review its safety policies and plans.
A robust approach to school safety plans assumes that “something will happen, sometime.” We can’t always prevent a crisis, but at least the LaPorte school district is well prepared when they do.
Does your school have a plan? Have you been trained? Share your experiences with us.
Click here to browse dozens of Public School Insights interviews with extraordinary education advocates, including:
- Actress/Mathematician Danica McKellar on girls and math
- Best Selling Author Kenneth C. Davis on engaging with history
- Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Danielson on providing health care at school
The views expressed in this website's interviews do not necessarily represent those of the Learning First Alliance or its members.
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At Pierce County High School in rural southeast Georgia, the graduation rate has gone up 31% in seven years. Teachers describe their collaboration as the unifying factor that drives the school’s improvement. Learn more...
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