March 2022 School Safety Blog
“[T]he Legislature recognizes that comprehensive safe school plans…are of paramount importance… to assure students, parents, guardians, school employees, and school administrators that our schools provide the safest possible learning environment."
The Legislature used these words to underscore the importance of safety planning when it first required districts and schools to develop and maintain safety plans twenty years ago in 2002. Two things jump out at me when I read this. First, the foundational importance of ensuring a safe learning environment. That safe environment includes physical, psychological, emotional, and educational safety. And second, the environment is safe for all. All.
How do we ensure that we are planning and providing a safe environment for all though? Let’s step back for a second and consider some of the information you have at hand: your student population and its ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity. Do you have students with special needs? Is there gender diversity? Compare that to your school staff: educational, administrative, and support. How do student progress and discipline data look?
You have probably been studying all of this in your efforts to address diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Now, look at your campus. Where do you sit within your community? What does your neighboring community look like? Feel like? Is your school easily accessible? Are entrances and exits clearly marked? How close or how far are you from your families? Do you have outside agencies providing support of one kind or another for your school? Where are they coming to you from?
Let’s apply this to comprehensive school safety. We might look at just about any aspect of safety and safety planning, but for the moment, let’s consider another aspect of safety called out in RCW: reunification planning.
Imagine this scenario. There’s a fire at the school. The fire department responded and the school was evacuated. Due to the extent of the damage, the time of day, and the weather, your students are being evacuated to an off-campus reunification location.
- How are you notifying families? Do all your families have access to the tech you use so they can receive the message in a timely manner?
- Will all your language-diverse families comprehend the message? Will they know where to go – and why?
- Your school population is quite diverse, but the neighborhood around your school is not. Will your students feel safe walking from their school to the site?
- Considering your surroundings, will your students be safe moving to the reunification site?
- You have several students who are physically handicapped. Are you able to move all of them safely to the site?
- Your reunification site is a house of worship. Will students and staff enter and know how to act in a way that is not disrespectful to the site?
- Is the reunification site capable of accommodating both a major influx of traffic and diversity of people coming to it?
- Bottom line, does your reunification plan take into account all students?
We could go on. We could change up the scenario. We could step back at look at the planning process and planning team, itself. That bottom line is the same: school safety is foundational to creating a successful learning environment for all. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are critically important aspects of creating and ensuring a safe environment.