Keeping our students safe is the No. 1 priority for school districts today. A safe environment leads to a productive learning environment where the teachers can focus on teaching and the students can focus on learning. This can be a very complex process due to the ever evolving and unique threats that range from targeted violence to cyberattacks. In our educational approach, each district has its own individualized priorities, but there are common elements that can be shared to establish the consistency necessary for appropriate response from local law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services. Our collaborative efforts give us an opportunity to share best practices to help strengthen our school safety plans and practices.
We are very fortunate in Lenawee County to have the Lenawee County School Safety Committee that includes the Lenawee County emergency management coordinator; members of city, county and state law enforcement; members of county fire and EMS departments; and local education leaders who work diligently to ensure all districts in the county have the most up-to-date best practices for school safety implementation. This collaborative effort continues to work toward establishing consistency across the county for threat assessment procedures, emergency operation plans, school drills (lockdown, fire and tornado), reunification plans, and vulnerability assessments for all districts. The committee’s goal is to equip all stakeholders with the training and expertise necessary to apply research-based best practices to strengthen their security postures to help mitigate threats at schools and to reduce the amount of harm inflicted if incidents occur.
Research suggests that a positive school climate can lead to a significant decrease in the likelihood of crime, aggression and violent behavior. Many districts in the county have implemented positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS), which is an evidence-based, three-tiered framework to improve and integrate all of the data, systems and practices affecting daily student outcomes. It also provides evidence-based practices for educators to support and respond to students’ social, emotional and behavioral needs.
Another key component of school safety is the opportunity others have in thwarting any acts of violence directed toward students, school employees or schools. We are fortunate in the state of Michigan to have the OK2Say program. Their motto is "Stop the Silence, Help End the Violence." Anyone can report tips confidentially on criminal activities or potential harm directed at students, school employees or schools. Tips can be submitted 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 855-565-2729, texting to 652729, or emailing OK2SAY@mi.gov.
The combination of all of the efforts remain fluid and are adjusted to fit the needs of the individual districts. We are fortunate to be able to take a collaborative approach to school safety. With this, the end goal remains the same — creating a safe environment for learning.
Scott Riley is superintendent of Blissfield Community Schools.
This article originally appeared on The Daily Telegram: Scott Riley: Multiple efforts aim to keep students safe