What Common Rule Means for School Safety Drills | SAFETY DOC PODCAST #99 with Dr. David Perrodin [Podcast]

[Podcast] As of May, 2019, only 43 of 50 states require schools to have safety plans and conduct safety drills (Education Commission of the States, 2019). When states mandate schools to have safety plans and conduct safety drills, it is the individual schools left to determine how they will design said plans and drills. In some states, the safety plan must be presented to a school board and submitted to the state Department of Justice. However, without templates and rubrics, there is littler inter-school reliability. What is a “good” safety plan or “effective” safety drill? Nobody knows. 

DIRECT LINK to MP3 of this Episode: https://tinyurl.com/SDP99-AUDIO


While the Stanford Prison Experiment was originally slated to last 14 days, it had to be stopped after just six due to what was happening to the student participants. The guards became abusive, and the prisoners began to show signs of extreme stress and anxiety. These were university students, assuming assigned roles, as part of an experiment that attempted to investigate the psychological effects of perceived power, focusing on the struggle between prisoners and prison officers.


Similar to the infamous 1963 Milgram shock experiment, Stanford’s experiment flew off the rails as subjects in positions of power followed directives that seemingly brought pain or harm to recipients.  Were the subjects acting as prison guards cruel, despicable people? Probably not. But, they were in a university context and a professor was mingling among them. They probably assumed that some measures were in place to prevent harm to recipients – and simultaneously lacked awareness of the endorphin rush they received from exerting their will over others.


In 1974, universities collectively ratified the Institutional Review Board (IRB) process. The mandate of the IRB is to provide ethical and regulatory oversight of research that involves human subjects by: Protecting the rights, welfare and well-being of human research participants, recruited to participate in research conducted or supported by the university. Psychological and physical welfare are carefully considered and risks are identified and mitigated.


In 1991, 16 federal agencies formally adopted the core of these regulations in a common Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects also known as the “Common Rule” (Grady, 2015). I propose that adopting the IRB in K-12 settings will increase safety for all drill participants and, through the scientific model, increase efficacy of school safety drills. Common Rule applies, for example, to the Food and Drug Administration and clinical trials for medications. Common Rule was updated in 2019 with greater emphasis placed upon simplifying subject consent forms and clearly explaining potential consequences of participating in studies.


Schools can establish their own standards for school safety plans and safety drills as long as they are complying with state mandates. In other words, schools IRB or COMMON RULE for these reasons: (1) Corral theatrical intruder drills that might traumatize or physically harm participants. This happens – just do a search on Google for “Intruder Drill Lawsuit”. Also, hyper-realistic drills are not the gold standard. If they were, we would conduct fire drills and tornado drills with similar drama. So, a committee of administrators, teachers, students, parents and board members review each proposed safety drill. (2) Each drill would have at least one learning objective. For example, “If a lockdown is announced during passing time, students would go to a safe location.” You can define “safe” per your site. Another example of a learning objective is, “Emergency responders will learn 3 techniques to engage with students with disabilities.”


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Dr. Perrodin’s “Safety Doc Podcast” negotiates school and community safety. To be informed about industrial safety, please contact Appalachian State University Professor Dr. Timothy Ludwig, PhD, at www.safety-doc.


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