Dear Parents….GET INVOLVED
Summer is here, but the next school year will begin before you can blink. And now is the perfect time to get involved with school safety.
Imagine if you will. It’s another Monday morning after a long weekend of soccer games and family fun. The kids are gathering their school bags, eating breakfast, and preparing themselves for another week of learning. Like most parents, you are likely running around yourself making mental notes of what you have to complete by day's end. The rumble of the bus turning the corner fills the house as your kids dash for the door like Olympian athletes. You say goodbye and watch them as they board the bus.
Does the thought enter your mind about their safety as you say your goodbyes for the day? They will be fine, right? The schools are safe and the staff is well trained…right? How do you know?
It's Not the Same World Today
Like most parents, you are aware of the dramatic shift in violence happening in our schools. At some point, you have been horrified and heartbroken over another senseless active shooter incident somewhere in the United States. But it won't happen in your community, right? Chances are, those families that have lost their children didn't think it would happen to them either. The truth is, it can't happen 'here' until it does.
So what can you do to protect your kids? You can get involved at the local level.
Have you asked to see the EOP (Emergency Operating Procedures) for your children(s) school(s)? Have you asked the school how often they conduct active shooter drills? Have you seen the performance results from the active shooter drill(s)? Have you asked questions? Do you know the questions to ask? The fact is that most parents have not asked the questions and have no idea what the plan is if an active attack was to take place at their child’s school. That's not an attack on parents. It's just a simple fact.
An Exercise in Understanding
The following is a section taken from the TSA Travel Security Screening. Most of you have flown and you know the drill. The technology and protocols that are in place when you travel are intense and for good reason. Why is it that most folks know plenty about the TSA guidelines for air travel but yet do not know how often an active threat drill is conducted at the schools their children attend? How is it that we know more about the technology used at the airport for screening travelers but have no idea what protocols are in place in our local school districts?
- Security measures begin long before you arrive at the airport. TSA works closely with intelligence and law enforcement communities to share information. Additional security measures are in place from the time you get to the airport until you get to your destination.
- TSA adjusts processes and procedures to meet evolving threats and to achieve the highest levels of transportation security. Because of this, you may notice changes in their procedures from time to time.
- TSA counts on the traveling public to report unattended bags or packages; individuals in possession of a threatening item; and persons trying to enter a restricted area or similar suspicious activities at airports, train stations, bus stops, and ports. If You See Something, Say Something™. Travelers are encouraged to report suspicious activity to local law enforcement.
- Passenger screening at the airport is part of TSA’s layered approach to security to get you safely to your destination. TSA’s screening procedures are intended to prevent prohibited items and other threats to transportation security from entering the sterile area of the airport and are developed in response to information on threats to transportation security.
Let all of that sink in for a moment. Reflect after reading it.
Is your child's safety of less importance than American travelers in domestic airports?
Is your child less important than a federal employee? Of course not. Take a look at the following Federal Building and Facility Security Guidelines from Congressional Research Service.
Security operations at these federal facilities may include the following:
- all-hazards risk assessments;
- criminal and terrorist countermeasures, such as vehicle barriers, closed-circuit cameras (and other technology), security checkpoints at entrances, and the patrolling of the grounds and perimeter of federal facilities;
- federal, state, and local law enforcement response plans;
- emergency and safety training programs; and
- proactive gathering and analysis of terrorist and criminal threat intelligence.
Regulations for School Safety
Mandates for school security are not federally driven (but there are established guidelines). These regulations are set at the state level and in some cases by municipality. Many schools around the nation do not come close to the standards set at airports or federal facilities. In fact, we spoke to a teacher in MA recently who told us she did not know what the active shooter protocol consisted of at her school.
A teacher, actively teaching in an actual school, was not aware of the active shooter protocols in place at her own school.
Furthermore, this teacher told us that her school only got through a portion of their active shooter training during the 2022 school year. What?!?!! If an active shooter event occurs, it won't be a partial one. It stands to reason that partial training is not much better than no training at all.
Another school we spoke to during a vulnerability assessment told us that they could not perform an active shooter drill during lunch due to the current teacher’s union rules that stated that the teacher’s lunch could not be interrupted. Of special note, lunchtime would be a perfect time for an active attack to occur considering the number of kids in one room and in close proximity. Training for survival is key, putting union contracts over optimal training times is, on its face, alarming.
These examples highlight two schools that we encountered in one week. Imagine the reality if we were able to examine schools in the aggregate across the United States. School Violence is on the rise, dramatically so in many places, which makes the need for proactive planning even greater.
Mama Bears Get Roaring
Recently we have seen a movement of parents rising to defend the best interests of their children as it pertains to what is being taught at their schools. This same mama bear mentality must also begin to take place when it comes to security and your child’s safety while at school. Nobody, not a single person on this earth, cares about your kids as much as you do.
Below are a few questions to ask your schools today;
- Does your school have an Emergency Operations Plan?
- How often do you have active shooter drills?
- Who is present at the active shooter drills?
- Do you have a hot wash (debrief) of the most recent active shooter drill?
- How long should it take to evacuate the school during the active shooter drill and is the school meeting the goal time?
- What security technology do you have in place?
- Is the technology incorporated into your emergency response protocols?
- Are staff and students trained on how the technology fits into the overall response plan?
- Do you have direct-to-police dispatch communication?
- Do you have a least one full-time School Resource Officer (SRO)?
- If you do not have an SRO, why not?
- Where is the reunification point in the event of an active attack?
- How would the school communicate with parents in the event of an active attack?
- Do you have an incident commander?
- If so, who is the incident commander?
- Does your staff perform tabletop exercises to help better prepare for an active shooter?
- How much money is allocated in your school district for school security?
- Who at the school is responsible for school security?
- Is the active shooter training for the children age-appropriate?
- Do the children understand the active shooter training?
- Is there a Threat Assessment Protocol in the school?
- How does the school handle threats once they are identified?
- What improvements are slated for security improvements for the upcoming school year?
These are only some of the questions you should be asking as it pertains to your child’s school security. As the saying goes “You don’t know what you don’t know”.
You as a parent have every right to dig in and ask questions. Do not assume the school administration has a plan in place. Attend school board meetings. Ask for the budgets for the upcoming year and then ask more questions. Make certain that school security is a priority budget item even if that means your school doesn’t buy new Chromebooks this year. Rally the other parents at PTO/PTA meetings and let your voices be heard.
If you are interested in having your school speak with us, we are more than happy to help. For general questions, on the products and services we provide, please CONTACT US HERE.