As schools and districts contemplate the right mix of equipment, technology, training, and policies and procedures to keep students and staff safe, the debate continues over how they should institute lockdown procedures for their buildings during an active shooter event.
There are many issues superintendents face when it comes to today’s school environment. They must turn their attention to not only their school lockdown plans, but what can serve as a precursor to violence: the student learning ecosystem. With the two potentially existing hand-in-hand, there’s a need to determine how to appropriately manage them.
With that in mind, superintendents need to recognize the variations within their district’s ecosystem of learning and behavior, addressing each student’s specific needs with programs that address behavior management and intervention when required.
Superintendents actively evaluate how effective or ineffective their lockdown drills have become, how these drills impact the student confidence, fear, and behavioral responses in a time where these drills have become more commonplace.
These are 3 tips you can use for planning a solid school emergency lockdown plan that includes assistance in recognizing behaviors that may result in potentially violent outcomes.
1. Become More People-Focused
In today’s climate, many school safety and security plans only target active shooters. When superintendents address school safety, they’re often thinking about controlling and monitoring who enters and exits the school. While it’s normally a good thing to keep things simple in school crisis planning, it has been found that schools that have only one protocol based on active shooter occurrences are also the same ones that fail during a crisis.
However, they can also make their lockdown plans more people-focused, addressing not only the critical issues at hand, but just as importantly, the individuals they’re protecting—their students.
In planning a solid school emergency lockdown, there are many things to deal with. Aside from developing a school emergency lockdown, the superintendent’s attention should be on the value of social-emotional learning while understanding their student’s overall well-being. In many instances, potentially negative or violent behavior may be identified early through the use of social-emotional learning and digital monitoring.
School districts can equip themselves with digital technologies that work to put some security into their students’ own hands. A “smart card technology” enables students to access appropriate areas of their schools while monitoring their movements such as:
- All building entrances and exits
- Classroom entrances
- School kiosks
- Classroom computers
This form of technology provides students with a hand in taking responsibility for their whereabouts at all times. It also lets administrators know who is absent from school or habitually truant. This enables school admins to act before any situations have a chance to arise. It prevents the admin staff from being in the dark, helping to identify risks that would have gone unnoticed without the best school emergency lockdown plan in place.
2. Prevention and Intervention: Take an Eagle-Eye Approach to Behavior Management
Prevention and intervention play a critical role in the school emergency lockdown plan. In the current climate, schools are faced with multiple issues, any of which can break down into potentially dangerous situations that require crucial interventions involving various areas of mental illness.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in five children and adolescents experience a mental health problem during their school years. These include:
- Family problems
- Learning disability
- Alcohol and/or substance abuse
These also include serious mental health problems like self harm and suicide, which are on the rise. It has been reported that up to 60% of students do not receive the help they need because of stigma and lack of access to services.
Mentally healthy students are more successful in school and life
The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) report that good mental health is paramount to children in school and life. It was also learned that students who receive social-emotional and mental health support achieve better academic success.
They also explain that mental health encompasses social and emotional learning along with the ability to cope with life’s challenges. Left untreated, mental health problems can be linked to negative outcomes like academic and behavior problems, dropping out of school, delinquency, and possible run-ins with law enforcement for incidents ranging from mild infractions to violence.
To identify students’ learning and behavioral problems early, schools can intervene early with high-quality instruction, universal screening, and support of those students.
The country must engage in a serious discussion about how it can improve its efforts to provide for the mental health needs of its children and youth; not just to prevent acts of violence, but to support their well-being, academic achievement, and success in life.
Introduce social and emotional learning
Social and emotional learning, or SEL, can enhance a student’s ability to succeed in school, careers, and life. It can be the most proactive initiative for mental illness prevention, as research shows that this type of learning can reduce anxiety, substance abuse, suicide, depression, and violence. SEL also increases school attendance, test scores, and prosocial behaviors such as showing kindness, dealing with high-stress situations, offering empathy, and growing in personal awareness.
Enriching all aspects of a child’s life—learning, development, and play—is a long-term prevention strategy that addresses multiple forms of violence.
In addition, there is a critical need to prevent active shooting events by empowering the superintendent’s district-wide staff with behavior monitoring solutions that provide real-time data, automated referrals, and reward systems to help reinforce good behavior.
A way to accomplish this is through ScholarChip’s Alternative Behavior Educator (ABE). ABE teaches better behavior and monitors progress throughout a student’s career. Administrators and teachers receive data-driven reports that quickly flag at-risk students, enabling them to provide interventions. ABE also monitors and chronicles progress, and support decision-making tasks. This system incorporates the complete spectrum of behaviors and integrates student rewards.
The use of ABE helps superintendents create a productive environment for youth to receive support for behavior prevention and intervention before any situations occur.
3. Boost Your Learning Environment: Optimize Your Student’s Lockdown Procedures
The school emergency lockdown plan is a vital part in protecting your schools. Superintendents have a diverse K-12 ecosystem and learning environment. But they can have serious effects on the students who they are meant to protect.
In a Washington Post analysis, it was found that 4.1 million students went through at least one lockdown in the 2017-2018 school year alone. Many are left traumatized. Many students have been affected in such ways that saw them crying uncontrollably, writing farewell messages to family members, and even writing wills explaining what should be done with their bicycles and PlayStations.
Ken Trump is the president of the National School Safety and Security Services and a school safety expert. He views school safety in several ways:
- School safety requires a balanced approach. It’s about heartware and hardware, not just one or the other.
- High profile school safety incidents often raise questions of alleged failures that include people, policies, procedures, and systems.
- The human side of school safety is critical. It’s about “mental” detectors rather than metal detectors. Students should be surrounded in caring environments so they can thrive.
- Teachers and school staff should be armed with technology and textbooks, not firearms. If firearm use is contemplated on a campus, this should be a trained professional police officer.
Mr. Trump also believes age- and developmentally-appropriate preparedness drills are reasonable. He does not support teaching children and staff to attack gunmen or over-the-top, extreme drills and exercises, many of which cause more stress, fear, panic, and anxiety.
A positive school emergency lockdown plan needs to include the ability to monitor and manage student behavior and intervene when required. Social and emotional learning improves student performance a range of behaviors and makes learning a successful and safe education experience.
A Confident Ecosystem = A Solid Lockdown Plan
In today’s school environment, behavior monitoring and management along with improved mental health work hand-in-hand with a school emergency lockdown plan. In order to prevent and intervene school violence with digital monitoring systems, all three tips listed can work successfully.
ScholarChip believes that in order for schools to be safer, superintendents have to think beyond hardening their schools and employing armed guards and spend more time having the harder conversations about student wellbeing and the importance of mental health and addressing these issues through social-emotional learning.
ScholarChip’s overall school safety system converges and integrates all these tips into one scalable approach for the best school emergency lockdown plan.
To learn more about how to prevent and intervene when dealing with school violence and securing a safe school environment, schedule a 1-on-1 walkthrough with one of our specialists today!