Tips for school safety in the New Year
The state Office of the Education Ombudsman staff wishes to express our heartfelt condolences to the families, educators and community members of Newtown, Conn. for the devastating loss they have experienced.
Many parents and students have contacted our office to share their feelings, concerns and grief. We are heartbroken but believe that this tragedy can lead to a renewed commitment to work together and find ways to ensure the safety and well being of all children.
A frequent question we have been asked is "What can we do so that this tragedy doesn’t happen again?" While no one can ensure anyone’s safety anywhere, we do believe that as educators, families and communities we should take all possible steps to prevent and be ready to respond if a violent incident were to happen during school time.
The most important step is to move from denial – “this will never happen here/to us” – to preparation and a plan of action.
What families can do
• Talk to your children about recent events of school violence and discuss their fears and grief.
• Monitor your student’s access and use of violent video games and Internet sites.
• Discuss differences between video games and reality.
• Find out which safety and emergency response procedures exist in your school and discuss them with your student. Explain what role you will play in the event of an emergency at school, what is your family’s emergency plan and who are your contacts in case you are unable to come to the school.
• Ensure that your school has your latest contact and emergency contact information.
• Help other parents and students understand and follow your school’s safety procedures.
• If you suspect that your student is struggling with mental/emotional health issues communicate with your school and find professional assistance to have your student appropriately evaluated and treated as needed.
• Help your school partner with health and social service providers to assist students and families who may need supports.
What school districts & schools can do
• Review, and if necessary, improve safety procedures and emergency response systems for all school buildings and school district central offices.
• Train all school building and district personnel, including administrative staff, bus drivers, custodians, etc on safety and response procedures.
• Communicate with all parents to ensure they have given their schools updated contact and emergency contact information.
• Create a manual explaining safety and emergency response procedures for staff and a manual for students and parents.
• Communicate safety procedures to parents and students through student meetings, websites, parent meetings, flyers, posters, e-newsletters, texts, etc. in a language they can understand.
• Conduct frequent emergency response drills with staff, parents and students working together as a team.
• Identify community-based health and social services and supports that schools can partner with to assist students and families.
A message from the OEO staff:
As this year comes to an end, we are most grateful for your support of our work to improve the education of students in the public school system. And we thank you for your work on behalf of children and families in Washington state.
Sincere wishes for a warm and family-filled holiday. We look forward with hope to a joyous and successful New Year with you.
OEO is staffed by a group of education professionals who are dedicated to the academic success of Washington students. They have extensive expertise in K-12 public education, mediation and conflict resolution, education law, cultural competence, and school-family partnerships.