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Ken Donovan, facilities/security manager at Stonington Public Schools in Connecticut, shows off a school’s lockdown emergency button. When pushed, the button will lock the doors, bar access to other floors, issue an audible warning that an intruder is present and alert to local police cruisers.

School administrators across the country are turning to portable panic buttons, cloud-based crisis management systems and other technology in the search for new ways to keep students and staff safe. The price tag can run from a few thousand dollars to well into six figures, but administrators say the cost is worth it.

The above chart, from United Educators’ “2011 Public Schools Claims Report,” shows the dollar cost of claims for each category of bodily injury among district employees across the nation. (Click to enlarge)

A few years ago, San Francisco USD had questions about the hundreds of community-based organizations teaching reading to students and growing school gardens, among a wide range of other activities. Administrators wanted to know the risks of outside groups using school facilities.

Rural Saco School District is located off Highway 2 in northeastern Montana. The highway and nearby train put the district’s 50-student school at greater risk for intruders, Superintendent Gordon Hahn says.

Superintendents in rural districts across America are increasingly making the controversial choice to carry a concealed weapon at school, in order to protect students from potential threats.

Tom Wohlleber, assistant superintendent for business services for Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District, leads a safety session with administrators and teachers.

A “culture of safety”—at all levels of a district—is the first and most critical step in dealing with occupational injury. It also guides the prevention of, response to and mitigation of hazards in the workplace, including staff behavior.

Ohio Department of Public Safety Director John Born created a 24/7 tipline that allows students to report potential threats.

Ohio Department of Public Safety Director John Born helped create a statewide anonymous tip line for schools that allows students to identify potential threats, such as a student planning to bring a weapon to school. It is now used in more than 820 districts.

TIPS (Threat Assessment, Incident Management and Prevention Services) is a set of web-based tools designed to empower students, parents, teachers and staff to report bullying or other safety concerns confidentially. Once reports are made, TIPS provides a central and secure system for school personnel to investigate the concern and objectively assess the situation. Staff can then track and document actions taken, and monitor the students involved.

Year: 
2014

The SafeSchools online staff training and compliance management system contains a comprehensive library of school-focused courses. SafeSchools Training includes safety courses relating to special education, technology, emergency management and nutrition. Some of the newest courses in the program include “Active Shooter for Administrators,” “Bedbugs in Schools (Spanish),” and “Trenching & Excavation Safety.”

Reader Testimony: 

“Minidoka School District has been using SafeSchools Training for several years as the safety tool to train all personnel. They have provided updated courses that apply to all aspects of school safety. Our personnel like the courses provided online so they can utilize them to meet their schedules, and I like the flexibility in scheduling courses to meet the needs of our ever-changing personnel and school issues as they arise.” — Sanie Baker, district safety coordinator/principal, Minidoka School District, Idaho

Year: 
2014
The athletic trainer at Kimball High School in Dallas, Texas, helps players on the field during the football team’s opening game. (Photo: Renee Fernandes/NATA)

A student athlete with a concussion doesn’t face challenges only in returning to play. Their injury also can hinder their performance in the classroom, and administrators must make sure students who need rest or have to work more slowly are able to keep up with schoolwork during recovery.

SROs like Kevin Quinn, above, past president of the National Association of School Resource Officers, teach lessons as part of the job.

Districts working to prevent mass shootings and other violent campus attacks are hiring more school resource officers to patrol their buildings, particularly at the elementary level. These SROs, elevated from a more passive role, are now an integral part of school safety planning.

Though more districts are hiring school resource officers to keep students safe, some argue that schools with SROs have more student arrests than schools without the officers, contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline.

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