[Podcast] School safety is the default responsibility of individual schools. Surprisingly, there are no federal laws mandating school safety plans of school-based mental health services. Some, and not all, states require school safety plans. Individual school districts safety plans are inconsistent and with site-based management, most schools apply discretion to make safety policies fit the unique characteristics of the school – from the population served to the design of the building. In other words, schools are pretty much on their own to craft and ensure school safety protocols.
DIRECT LINK to MP3 of this Episode: https://tinyurl.com/SDP103-AUDIO
KEY TERMS FOR ENTITIES RESPONSIBLE FOR SCHOOL SAFETY
“Local entity” includes local, regional or district boards, agencies or offices (such as local boards of education, district boards of trustees or school system committees). “School” includes administrators, principals and other designated officials at the school-level. “School safety entity” includes agencies, departments, task forces, committees, etc., which were created with the intent of addressing school safety matters (Education Commission of The States, 2019). Confusing, right?
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ROLE IN SCHOOL SAFETY
The federal government doesn’t mandate school safety plans. Beyond some token legislation of gun free zones, the federal government defaults the responsibility for maintaining safe schools to the states. The Feds saturate states and schools with recommendations to the point where the one-size-fits-all templates simply overwhelm the end-users. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has produced solid research and resources for school connectedness, a framework known to decrease school violence and increase student attendance and academic performance. A school is not obligated to follow the CDC’s school connectedness model.
STATES ROLE IN SCHOOL SAFETY
Only 43 of 50 states mandate that schools have safety plans. Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Pennsylvania do not (1) require a school safety plan; (2) identify an entity responsible for creating the safety plan; (3) require that law enforcement be involved in creating the plan; (4) frequency with which the plan is required to be reviewed and updated; or (5) have a legal citation referencing school safety. Most states require drills, but then require a submitted checklist once a year to verify compliance. There are no onsite district safety assessments.
DISTRICTS ROLE IN SCHOOL SAFETY
Districts are responsible for adopting school safety policies and practices. Wisconsin, for example, has 421 districts! Templates are available, but school safety plans, drills and exercises have a modicum of inter-school reliability due to the fact that most schools function under site-based management. In other words, principals are responsible for safety training procedures and safety drill design and fidelity in their buildings. Using Wisconsin as an example, that’s more than 2,200 school buildings – not including hundreds of community preschool partner sites.
In July, 2019, the US Department of Education made $65 million dollars available in competitive school safety grants. These grants are divided into 3 categories. Each grant is vaguely described and won’t evoke sustained change. Obtaining one of these grants is like winning the lottery – you can do more until the money is expended. None of these grants is for researching root causes of school violence or the Youth Code of Silence.
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