On Tuesday the U.S. Department of Education published the final report of the Federal Commission on School Safety in which it outlined best practices relating to a wide variety of school security topics, including mental health, active shooter response, training, building hardening and more.
The most controversial part is the announcement that the Trump administration is planning to rescind Obama era guidance on student discipline, which aimed to prevent minority and disabled children from being treated unfairly. According to the report, critics of the guidance claim it had a strong, negative impact on school discipline and safety.
Disability, LGBTQ and civil rights advocates, however, are denouncing the move, claiming the Department is abandoning its commitment to enforce civil rights protections. They are also questioning why the roll-back was included in a report that was purportedly created in response to the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting – a tragedy that wasn’t impacted by the Obama guidance (the alleged gunman was white and had been expelled).
Other interesting topics covered include FERPA and HIPAA compliance… topics that the report says still cause a lot of confusion to school staff and law enforcement. The report provides a good overview of when schools can provide the educational records and personal health information of students. To jump to the part covering FERPA and HIPAA, click here.
Much of the rest of the report covers best practices that K-12 protection professionals should already know and Campus Safety has covered over the years, including building locks, emergency communications, mental health, table top exercises, threat assessments and more. For individuals unfamiliar with school security best practices, this is a good primer.
Because the actual document is 180 pages in length, below I’ve cut and pasted the text I believe is most applicable to K-12 protection professionals and the stakeholders they serve.
The full report can be found here.
Character Development and Developing a Culture of Connectedness
Because so many of the gunmen responsible for campus mass shootings were detached, withdrawn, depressed and/or isolated, the report stresses the importance of increasing connectedness in the classroom, improving school climate, providing positive behavioral interventions and supports, and fostering social and emotional learning. It also covered the prevalence of bullying and cyberbullying in schools, which can lead to depression, anxiety, family problems, academic difficulties, delinquency, school violence, and suicidal thoughts and attempts.
- States should provide resources for their schools to help create a positive school climate where students feel connected to, rather than isolated from, their teachers and fellow students.
- States should support character education programs and expand those already in existence using various federal or state funds.
- Schools and districts should adopt effective social and emotional learning (SEL) strategies
- Schools and districts should use a variety of data sources, including school climate surveys, to guide the selection of evidence-based interventions tailored to their specific needs.
- Schools and districts should adopt tiered social, emotional, and behavioral supports to establish a climate that appropriately supports and responds to student behavior.
Cyberbullying and School Safety
- The appropriate federal agencies should assist states and school districts in leveraging support from existing programs that help reduce cyberbullying.
- Stopbullying.gov provides information from various government agencies on what bullying is, what cyberbullying is, who is at risk, and how people can prevent and respond to bullying. The site provides helpful research and resources about bullying-prevention training, state laws and policies, what schools and students can do to prevent bullying, and more.
- The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students administers the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center. The Center offers tips to help guide school officials in considering the use of social media in school behavioral threat assessments.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website MedlinePlus provides resources that inform users of the warning signs of bullying, prevention and risk factors, and how to help children deal with bullying. It also discusses existing laws and policies regarding bullying.
States and local communities
- Many states, districts, and schools are creating their own, innovative approaches to cyberbullying. These practices, many of which are still in the process of being evaluated, could show promise for preventing and/or addressing cyberbullying. States should adopt similar and effective practices or develop their own. The report then highlights examples from Sioux City, Iowa, Seattle, Dear Park, Texas, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Pennsylvania.
- States, districts, and schools should adopt policies to help prevent cyberbullying, such as school climate initiatives and support for digital citizenship and character development. Because of the importance of peer influence, schools can consider ways to have these efforts led by students.
- States, districts, and schools should use appropriate systems to monitor social media and mechanisms for reporting cyberbullying incidents. Examples include Michigan’s OK2SAY and Colorado’s Safe2Tell programs.
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