Is Your District's Safety Plan Up To Date?

By Gary Salmans

Words like “safety plans” and “crisis management” have taken on new meaning for schools in the wake of shootings and other acts of violence over the past decade. And while violent deaths at schools are relatively rare, districts should take the time to research and review safety plans so they can be prepared.

Periodically, the Bureau of Justice Statistics publishes a report called Indicators of School Crime and Safety. The 2005 report, which provides the latest data available, includes detailed statistical information on the incidence of violence in America’s schools.

Most of the information detailed in the report now is five years old, but the data presents a startling picture for schools. From 1992 to 2002, U.S. elementary and secondary schools reported 462 school-associated violent deaths. Of those, 261 were homicides and 55 were suicides of school-age youth.

In a 2003 survey sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 percent of students reported that they had carried a weapon on school property. More than 55 million students were enrolled in U.S. schools in 2003, meaning that about 3.3 million kids took a weapon to school that year.

What should you do to make sure your safety plans are up to date? A good place to start is the U.S. Department of Education’s Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities. Known as “the Guide,” the report is designed to aid schools in the development of emergency response plans. It outlines four phases of crisis management: mitigation/prevention, preparation, response, and recovery.

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