by: Jessica Nelson, MD

In years past, outside of developing a challenging an effective curriculum, administrators had very little to worry about when it comes to campus safety. The greatest threat to our children’s safety on campus were natural disasters.  However, as we prepare for the upcoming school year, gun violence and policies on how to handle an active shooter on campus is not only at the top of the list for many administrators, but on the minds of many parents and students as well. 

With school shootings becoming increasingly more common discussions on how we can work together to keep our children safe and help prevent another tragedy are vital.

Identify campus safety

  • Do your children attend a closed campus?  Closed campuses are those that do not allow outside persons to independently enter the campus.  A campus that often has one point of entry, operated by an administrator, prevents trespassers with ill intent to roam freely.  
  • Is your campus easily accessible by first responders?  Often times the matter of life and death is determined by how quickly first responders can get their patients to facilities best equipped to take care of them.  If your campus has obstacles preventing easy access to campus, treatment for the injured student could be delayed.

Emergency Management Plan

  • Does your school have an emergency management plan?  Know what your schools management plan is for an active shooter.  If they don’t have one, encourage your school to be proactive and start developing a plan.  Important things to consider in development are lockdown and evacuation procedures, plans if students and staff are unable to evacuate, and how to effectively run drills.

Staff Training

  • Are the staff at your school trained?  In past school shootings, many students survived because of the quick and selfless acts of their teachers and staff.  Training staff to not only know what to do in the face of a shooter, but how to identify a threat before a shooting occurs could potentially save your child’s life.

Communicate with your children

  • Parents, talk to your children about recent events.  Ask them what they would do if someone came to campus with ill intentions.  Where would they go, what will they do if a shooter enters the campus, the building, or the room.  How would they try to hide?  Where could they hide in the room?

Potential Threat Assessment

  • The ability to identify a child’s potential to be a shooter is also key.  Being able to assess a potential threat using tools outlined by the department of homeland security is another factor in preparedness and prevention.   Establish threat assessment procedures that include practices for maintaining documentation, identifying sources of information, reviewing records, and conducting interviews.

For years, we have invested time in to preparing for fires, tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, and discussing plans of evacuation for massive floods.  Although difficult to discuss, its time to address school shooting preparedness in a similar fashion. I challenge you to educate yourselves on how to identify potential shooters and take action in your community by encouraging your school leaders to develop a plan of action to keep our children safe. 

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