Updated: Mar 17, 2022
FINALLY! 2021 is behind us! We now have a clean slate on a new year. As we ride a new, hopefully short seasonal wave, of Covid we must not lose site of the communities we serve educationally.
Threats of school violence continue to pour in and officials are wrestling with how to best handle the influx. According to James Densley, a professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University and a co-founder of the Violence Project, a non-profit research center, more than 150 threats were made nationwide in the week following the Nov. 30 deadly shooting at Oxford High School. For comparison, there were 151 school threats for the whole month of September, reports The Washington Post. That number alone is a fivefold increase over the number seen in a typical September.
These growing concerns were only exacerbated by a recent TikTok “challenge” that threatened acts of violence in schools nationwide, dubbing Dec. 17 “National Shoot Up Your School Day.” The threats led to some school closures while other schools added police.
Every single threat must be taken seriously and experts have expressed deepening concerns that some of these threats will materialize into credible plans for violence. No school can ever know which threat "will be the one" that actually results in tragedy so every threat must be treated as such.
This now exasperates an already growing national violence issue and has become yet another distraction, coupled with Covid mitigation, that is taking attention away from a bigger picture plan of action for school districts across the nation.
Parents, please take this time to speak with your children about the responsibility they have when it comes to social media posts. Its not ok to make a school threat to "get out of school for a day" or "as a joke". Officials across the United States are prosecuting the the full extent of the law. In many cases that can include felony charges of making a terroristic threat. Charges of this nature will stick with a child's record for many years to come and could have a profound impact on their futures.
Schools, does your school have a communication plan with local law enforcement? Many schools have school resource officers, but even so, its vitally important that clear lines of communication are open for dialog at all times regarding school safety. Local law enforcement "feet on the street" must be a continual partner before tragedy strikes, not just after.
District officials, have all of your schools had vulnerability assessments? Each school and community is different, so this is a step that cannot be skipped.
Mental health providers should also be in place in your schools. Are they readily available for students and staff? Do they have established guidelines for identifying a potentially dangerous situation? Do they have resources for intervention?
Is local law enforcement actively engaged with your school or district? Do they have a presence on campus? Do students and faculty have a relationship with them?
Students, do you have a resource for communicating concerns or issues? Do you feel that you have a trusted school official you can talk to if you are feeling distress or see that someone else may be experiencing an issue?
Does your district train for crisis events like active shooters? Do students and staff take it seriously or just "go through the motions"?
Does your district have technology to mitigate losses if something WERE to happen? Panic buttons? Lockdown technology? Reunification technology?
These are just a few of the considerations a district should have in mind when it comes to school safety. Having plans addressing concerns from all angles is imperative, and then the district must proactively bring the pieces of the puzzle together cohesively.
So what plans does your school or district have for school safety in 2022? If you find that question is unable to be definitively answered, then we encourage you to reach out to us for a free consultation. The NASCPC is uniquely qualified to evaluate your particular school and recommend solutions unique to your needs. We approach school safety as an ecosystem from all angles because there is no magic dart.....school safety is holistic and is a culture. We help you build your roadmap to success by bringing together all available resources in your district. We can also help you to identify resources you may not be aware of. In this way, your school safety plan approaches all angles from physical vulnerabilities, to mental health challenges and everything in between.
We would be honored to be a part of your districts journey to protecting our children and enhancing their lives with a worry-free education experience.