Snow Days (please no more), and School Safety
As I sit and write this, it is still snowing! Many parents have written asking about how we might make up time, suggesting alternatives, and expressing concern about the end of the year. We are fortunate that School Board policy IC allows for maximum flexibility. Since we have had excessive snow days, I will be bringing a recommendation to the Board regarding our days and I will also be reaching out to the DOE to request flexibility. I will bring the recommendation to the first School Board meeting in April. Thank you to all who have shared recommendations; if you have a question, concern, or idea please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Now we just need it to stop snowing!!
School Safety and Security
Today is one month since the tragic school shooting in Florida. Over the past month, administrators have spent an incredible amount of time considering and reviewing building security and safety plans and some schools have instituted new procedures for entrance to buildings. As part of this work, the administrators have worked to develop a document to communicate our approach to building security and safety. This work could not have been accomplished without the support of Dr. Ann Forrest, Assistant Superintendent; I am grateful every day to work with such a talented colleague. Please continue to reach out with questions, concerns, or suggestions.
There are three main areas of focus when working to create a safe environment in schools. The first area is creating a safe environment through emergency response planning, how we prepare and plan for an emergency or crisis. The second area is creating a safe environment through facilities safety and security, how we access buildings and the physical structures and security measures in place. The third area is creating a safe environment through planning for and supporting social, emotional, and behavioral health and growth, which is how we provide support and intervention prior to or during conflict or escalating behaviors.
Meeting these focus areas calls for us to balance physical and psychological safety to avoid overly restrictive measures that can undermine the learning environment and instead combine reasonable physical security measures with efforts to enhance school climate, build trusting relationships, and encourage students and adults to report potential threats. If a school determines the need for armed security, properly trained school resource officers (SROs) are the only school personnel of any type who should be armed (Cowan, Vaillancourt, Rossen, & Pollitt, 2013).
Additionally, schools should be working toward implementing multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) that encompass prevention, wellness promotion, and interventions that increase with intensity based on student need, and that promote close school–community collaboration(Cowan, et al. 2013). Schools should also work toward consistently improving access to school-based mental health supports by ensuring adequate staffing levels in terms of school-employed mental health professionals who are trained to infuse prevention and intervention services into the learning process and to help integrate services provided through school-community partnerships into existing school initiatives (Cowan et al., 2013).
Below is an outline of how the ConVal School District is presently implementing the three areas. Considerations for increasing specific areas are presently being discussed and input is welcome.
Creating a Safe Environment: Emergency Response Planning
- District- and School-level Emergency Response Committees
- Made up of school and community members (e.g., Fire, Police, Community member)
- Ongoing review and practice of safety drills – planning and practicing for different scenarios
- Systems Mapping in Progress
- Staff Specific Drills—e.g., active shooter drill
- Emergency Plans updated and reviewed at the State level
- Additional Training
- ICS 100
- Developing a High-Quality Emergency Operations Plan – Day-long training sponsored and facilitated by NH Dept. of Safety, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and School Emergency Readiness Program. Description of Training: Assist participants in both EOP creation, and increasing the quality and functionality of existing EOPs. At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will be able to generate a high-quality EOP for their school district that is both NIMS and RSA 189:64 compliant.
Creating a Safe Environment: Facility Safety and Security
- Current Measures in Place
- Buzzer/ Electronic Access system (Doors locked, badge enabled)
- Department of Homeland Security – School Safety Assessments (in progress)
- Reporting to the front office to sign in and get a visitor name tag
- Specific procedures and processes around facility safety and use
- Partnering with State agencies to review buildings and make recommendations
- Emergency plans updated and submitted annually to the State
- Enhanced 911 protocols in progress
- Systems mapping in place
Creating a Safe Environment: Supporting Students’ Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Growth
Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) – A problem-solving model that aims to prevent inappropriate behavior through teaching and reinforcing appropriate behaviors (OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports, 2007). PBIS offers a multi-tiered range of interventions that are systematically applied to students based on their demonstrated level of need, and addresses the role of the environment as it applies to development and improvement of behavior problems.
RENEW (Rehabilitation, Empowerment, Natural Supports, Education and Work) is an individualized school-to-career planning process for youths with emotional and behavioral challenges. Among its key features are: self-determination, a strength-based approach, personal futures planning, individualized school-to-career planning, as well as building family and community supports. RENEW is a Tier 3 Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) initiative. The model focuses on supporting each youth to design and pursue a plan for the transition from school to adult life. RENEW has substantially increased the high school completion, employment, and post-secondary education participation rates among our most vulnerable youth.
Check In/Check Out (CICO) – The CICO intervention, from the book Responding to Problem Behavior in Schools, 2nd Ed: The Behavior Education Program 1, is a highly effective research-based intervention and can be changed and adapted to suit any school or situation. The program consists of students daily checking in with an adult at the start of school to retrieve a goal sheet and encouragement, teachers provide feedback on the sheet throughout the day, students check out at the end of the day with an adult, and the student takes the sheet home to be signed, returning it the following morning at check-in.
Examples of Intervention Training
Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) 3-day Training – This program is considered the global standard for crisis prevention and intervention training. With a core philosophy of providing for the Care, Welfare, Safety, and Security of everyone involved in a crisis situation, the program’s proven strategies give human service providers and educators the skills to safely respond to various levels of risk behavior while balancing the responsibilities of care.
Life Space Crisis Intervention (LSCI) 5-Day Training – A nationally recognized, professional training and certification program sponsored by the Life Space Crisis Intervention Institute of Hagerstown, Maryland. LSCI is an advanced, interactive, therapeutic strategy for turning crisis situations into learning opportunities for children and youth with chronic patterns of self-defeating behaviors. LSCI views problems or stressful incidents as opportunities for learning, growth, insight, and change. This non-physical intervention program uses a multi-theoretical approach to behavior management and problem-solving. LSCI provides staff a roadmap through conflict to desired outcomes using crisis as an opportunity to teach and create positive relationships with youth.
Youth Mental Health First Aid Training – Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis. Youth Mental Health First Aid is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD), and eating disorders.
Signs of Suicide Prevention Program – In order to proactively address this issue, ConVal offers suicide prevention training and depression screening as part of the SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention program. This program has been used by thousands of schools over the past decade. It has proven successful at increasing help-seeking by students concerned about themselves or a friend, and is the only school-based suicide prevention selected by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) for its National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices that addresses suicide risk and depression, while reducing suicide attempts. The SOS Programs use a simple and easy-to-remember acronym, ACT® (Acknowledge, Care, Tell), to teach students action steps to take if they encounter a situation that requires help from a trusted adult. SOS is offered for both middle and high school aged youth and can be implemented in one class period by existing faculty and staff.
Second ACT Suicide Prevention Program – Life experience, knowledge, and maturity levels can vary greatly among high school students, and mental health and suicide prevention programming for upperclassmen can be very different than that of younger students. To address the unique needs of upperclassmen, Screening for Mental Health created SOS Second ACT: Preparing for Life Beyond High School, to meet the specific mental wellness needs of teenagers preparing for life after high school. The program was designed to help build a solid foundation on health care basics, health insurance, and self-care tips. It includes specific information about how to seek mental health treatment if they need it. In addition to reviewing the signs and symptoms of depression and suicidality, students are prompted to discuss substance abuse and other risky behaviors. Second ACT gives students a “mental health check-up” before they graduate, providing them with the knowledge they need to recognize the symptoms of depression and the signs of suicide. Additionally, the program provides action steps that students can take to effectively respond to these symptoms.