Safe From Harm

An online anthology on school security from ASBJ.

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August 2016

Bomb Scare
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August 2016

Safe Havens
Preventing student sexual abuse starts with you
February 2016

Security Checkpoint
Three years after Sandy Hook, the horrific tragedy spurred schools to intensify security efforts
October 2015

High School Cadets
About 1,730 schools have JROTC programs in their high schools. Giving students safe activities, positive instruction, and life-skills training that will see them past the risk points is something that U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) instructors have placed high on their priority list.
August 2014

School Security After Sandy Hook
Addressing school safety doesn’t mean simply responding to the latest horrific shooting. Districts have to put school shootings in perspective and understand where the threats are more likely to come from. Schools should take an “all-hazards” approach that considers the best responses to a variety of emergencies.
December 2013

Bad Weather Warnings for Schools
No place in the U.S. is immune to the threat of severe weather. Weather is an element of managing a school that is completely outside of your control except for having a solid preparedness plan in place. Have you developed a severe weather plan for your district?
December 2013

Storm Recovery in Oklahoma
Tornado-struck Moore (Okla.) school district did not have anyone working full-time in public relations. The external communications void post-tornado was filled by reporters, political pundits, social media users, bloggers, and even some employees, parents, and community members. Many of the communications were helpful, but others recycled and overreacted to bad information and rumors.
December 2013

Education Vital Signs: Safe From Harm
Education Vital Signs collection of reports on Safety.

A Crisis! What To Do? Read This!
With these ideas, processes and procedures in place, we can all feel more secure, and prepared to meet any emergencies that might occur. September 2013

School Safety Plans
Working together, schools and community partners can focus their emergency planning using time-tested national guidance, including efforts to build a positive school climate to establish relationships of trust and respect among students and staff in order to encourage them to share information about threatening behavior before an incident occurs.
August 2013


Columbine's 10th Anniversary
It has been 10 years since the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history occurred at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. -- a day that is remembered as education’s 9/11. To mark the anniversary, ASBJ interviewed school administrators and leaders in charge of the Jefferson County School District that day.
May 2009

Communicating During a Crisis
Effective school-community relations can be defined as “Good behavior, well communicated.” To effectively communicate about safety issues, you must make sure your schools have well-developed and exercised safety and crisis plans and your staff is trained to implement them. What not to say can be as important as what to say.
March 2009

When Disaster Strikes Your Schools
Disasters come in many forms, both natural and manmade, but school districts that are prepared for the worst are better able to get back up and running in the aftermath. Preparedness plans help district leaders coordinate when schools should close, how to communicate to staff and parents, and thousands of other details big and small.
December 2008

The Red Flags of School Safety
People who are passionate about school safety have a vision we share with concerned parents, educators, and especially with the kids we’re obliged to protect. In this vision our schools become safe havens for kids – warm, welcoming sanctuaries that foster learning and wall off threats and violence.
December 2008

A Measured Approach
After a series of deadly shootings, experts urge schools to take thoughtful steps to ensure safety.
December 2006

Safe from Harm
In the wake of several school shootings, a get-tough stance is tempting, but compassion and conversations are just as important.
December 2006

Investing in School Safety
Lack of oversight on safety issues can cost districts millions of dollars in the damages awarded each year to families of children injured at school. Although insurance companies usually pay these settlements, schools and taxpayers ultimately shoulder the burden through legal fees, higher taxes and insurance premiums, or loss of coverage.
December 2009

Do You Have a Disaster Plan?
School leaders know the ones who survive in uncertain times are the ones who can envision the uncertain, prepare and plan for it, then do it all over again. Good emergency preparedness can respond to any disruption. Common traits to effective emergency planning include widespread communication, duplication in roles, and flexibility.
December 2009

Preventing School Vandalism
The more common deeds of vandalism are an everyday affliction. Alarms and cameras are not sufficient by themselves to protect a school from vandals. The most effective defense against vandalism focuses not on things, but on people. Students who feel connected to school are less likely to harm their environment.
December 2012

Unequal School Justice
There was one bloody nose. But if the fight wasn’t extraordinary, the school’s response was. No one was suspended. The police weren’t called. No charges were filed. Instead, the boys, their parents, and the school principal met the next day and agreed to let the whole thing cool down.
December 2012

Preventing Child Sexual Abuse in Schools
Because teacher sexual misconduct is alarmingly common, a proactive, rather than reactive, approach at the district level is required to address this issue squarely and directly. Create an environment that is emotionally and physically safe and where teachers and students know in advance what behaviors are both acceptable and unacceptable.
August 2012

Restoring Joplin's Future
On May 22, 2011, an EF-5 tornado cut a three-quarter mile path through the middle of Joplin, Mo. More than 900 homes and buildings were destroyed, including four schools, the district’s technology center, and the central office. Schools opened – on time – 87 days after the tornado.
May 2012

The Aftermath of Disaster
2011 was barely half over when NOAA declared it one of the most extreme weather years on record. By June, the nation already had witnessed record snowfall in the Northeast, deadly tornadoes in the South and Midwest, and a drought in Texas. How do school districts recover when disaster strikes?
December 2011

Suspending School Suspensions
Recent studies document that students who feel connected to school are likely to improve on critical accountability measures. Unfortunately, suspensions disconnect students who already are experiencing difficulties by further alienating them. In-school suspension is one alternative that meets the academic and behavioral needs of students, staff, and families.
May 2010

Special Education Restraint Questioned
An investigation by the federal Government Accounting Office last year found that restraining or isolating disruptive students may be much more common than expected, particularly in special education classrooms. Some states already have counted thousands of incidents, and researchers studying the issue believe those numbers are underestimated.
March 2010

If a Tornado Strikes Your School
How would you handle the specter of a tornado spinning toward your school? What split-second decisions would you make? No single plan and no one decision is fool-proof when it comes to tornadoes. Still, you’re more likely to save lives if you follow these strategies, adapted from NOAA’s Preparedness Guide for Schools.
December 2008

Recognizing Sexual Grooming
School districts that want to protect students from sexual misconduct by staff should consider ways to prevent “sexual grooming,” a task that is difficult because such grooming often is only evident after the fact. The best way for school districts to prevent the grooming is by stopping inappropriate boundary invasions.
December 2008

Protecting Students Online
Web-savvy kids are trying anything and everything to connect to their peers, but are not aware of the dangers that lurk in online communities. Teachers and, to a lesser extent, parents are not as facile with the new technology, and are hard pressed to keep tabs on what kids are doing.
December 2008

School Hazardous Materials Accidents Are Preventable
An underground natural gas explosion at the London School, 125 miles southeast of Dallas, killed more than 300 students, staff, and townspeople on March 18, 1937. How did such a tragedy fade from memory? And why, only in the past few years, are people trying to raise awareness about it again?
April 2008

The Drive to Improve School Bus Safety
With more than 25 million students riding a school bus each year, everyone must work together to make sure disasters do not occur.
December 2007

Careful Bus Stop Selection Can Improve Student Safety
How to reduce student accidents and injuries
December 2007

Is Your District's Safety Plan Up To Date?
Are you ready to respond when a crisis occurs in one of your schools?
December 2007

Calming Fears, Creating Partners
The phone calls and e-mails had been pouring in for hours before the nonprofit Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) opened for business one morning last January.
June 2007

The High Cost of Cleanup
Environmental hazards in schools are not often as visible as rusty water, but they certainly are common. They can be found in the form of asbestos in the ceiling tiles, mercury in an old thermostat, or a jug of acid stored in a chemistry lab. Dealing with these invisible threats may not seem as pressing as closing the achievement gap or getting the buses to run on time. But experts warn that the cost of ignoring these risks can be great.
December 2006

When Child's Play Turns Tragic
A troubling school shooting case raises 'what if ...' questions about the need for adult supervision of young students
June 2006

Safe Hiring
All states have laws that address background checks for school employees, but state laws and local policies vary. One question is whether contractors and others should be checked in addition to employees.
December 2005

Schools and the Police
Students often witness or commit crimes. When police come to school to interview a student, school administrators are placed squarely between the competing interest of the police, on the one hand, and the student and parents on the other. Carefully drawn board policies can help guide school administrators, and those policies should in turn be guided by what the courts have said on the subject.
December 2005

Beyond Zero Tolerance
Do zero-tolerance policies make schools safe? Many educators seem to think so—and see zero tolerance as the backbone of school discipline. But many dispute the assumptions that support zero tolerance. Stringent zero-tolerance policies identify every child as potentially dangerous. On the surface, the policies appear sensible and logical, but they end up punishing many children who are often frightened, sometimes thoughtless, but rarely dangerous.
September 2004

When Disaster Strikes
Perhaps no school crisis plan can be absolutely perfect. But school boards, legislators, government officials, and others responsible for crisis management have a responsibility to make sure their plans are based on the best information possible—to ensure that their plans are good policy, not just good politics.
July 2004

When the News Is Dire
School district contingency plans have not adequately reflected the prominent role played by newspapers, radio, and television in covering school tragedies. A study of school shootings holds valuable lessons on dealing with the media when crisis strikes.
July 2004

Searching for Security
How can educators stop violence at school? A recent case from California, United States v. Aguilera, illustrates that teamwork, common sense, and adherence to the law can work hand in hand to do just that.
May 2004

Partners for Safety
With school resource officers, good school security is a matter of trust. The common characteristics of effective and safe schools are strong leadership, a caring faculty, and the involvement of parents and community members, including law enforcement officials.
April 2004

School Safety After 9/11
For our schoolchildren's sake, it makes no sense to pretend that 9/11 had no impact on school safety. If nothing else, the events of that day should make us look at safety from a different perspective, so we can be better prepared—it's always better to be prepared than scared. Now more than ever, schools need swift, secure crisis plans.
September 2003

A Preventable Tragedy
This month's case, Niziol v. Pasco County District School Board, tells the story of a tragedy that unfolded over the course of a single day. A boy brought a loaded pistol to Ridgewood High School, near Tampa, Fla., and was killed in the school parking lot that afternoon when the gun accidentally discharged. The boy's parents sued the district, claiming school officials knew about the gun but failed to take action to avert a tragedy.
July 2003

Life-Saving Lessons
Not long ago, three teenage boys in New Bedford, Mass., devised a plan to conduct a violent rampage at their high school. The boys plotted to kill as many jocks, preps, thugs, and faculty as they could with bombs and guns. But the plot was uncovered before it could be carried out. The foiled plot was seen as a victory in the world of school security: The district's security measures had helped avert a potential mass murder. Finally, the lessons learned after Columbine were saving lives.
March 2002