Revisiting your safe school plan and leaving a legacy

It’s tough to put into words the many thoughts that have raced through my mind since hearing the news of the shooting in Connecticut.

I was sitting in a hotel in NY and I was glued to the TV watching what every administrator, teacher, parent, or community member fears;  the aftermath of a school shooting.

As I watched the hours upon hours of coverage, I took out my iPad and began looking at my safe school plan and put myself at the scene.  I asked myself questions, hard questions, to think about and acknowledge:

  • If I were a teacher, does this plan explain to me the easiest and most effective way to protect my students and myself?
  • If I were a teacher, would I know what to do if my principal and other administrators were not able to assist during a crisis?
  • If I were a student, does this plan protect me as much as possible?
  • If I were a student, would I know what to do in case my teacher would not be able to assist me during a crisis?

Of course with any planning piece such as your Safe School Plan, it’s a fluid document and should often be revised and reviewed.  And to go through it thinking “This will never happen here,” is sadly something that cannot enter our minds.  Instead, the best we can say is “I hope we never have to use this,” but it better be the best thing you can create.

I was pleased with many of the aspects of our Safe School Plan.  In fact, looking at it through a teacher’s eyes reassured me that many of the procedures in place were the quickest and direct plans I think could happen.

But one thing stuck out to me as I reviewed the plan while listening to the first interview it the sheriff.  He stated that, in my best memory of the quote, “We had a hard time once students were inside the fire station and getting students to their parents.  We didn’t know who was absent and who was present.”  Instantly I sent an email to our data manager asking her if it’d be possible for her to send out an absent list each and every day to the entire staff and leadership.  By her sending out this quick .pdf file, leadership as well as teachers would have instant access to an updated list of students who weren’t on campus that day.

I also did an inventory of our crisis box, which has a well-thought-out checklist of what should be in there (if you would like one, please let me know and I will post one as well as how I organized our current box).  I realized that I should make it a habit to print out a monthly updated roster of the entire school and put it in the box.

It’s sad, but before students can learn they need to feel safe.  This event puts many doubts and insecurities in the minds of parents, students, and teachers.  We all should learn from the event and be prepared for the unexpected.

Here are some tips that I think would help us all in the coming weeks and months as this event will continue to be on the minds of all stakeholders:

  • When students see you in the hallways, they will feel safe.  They will see that you would be there to protect them.
  • Go out of your way to reassure them by your actions and not just your words.
  • Be sure to walk around your building.  Inspect areas of concern and determine if it needs to be addressed with your administrators and even safety deputies.
  • Have a police officer come by the school and do a walkthrough with you – either during or after school.  Let them give you critical feedback and guidance for a safer school and plan.
  • Inform your parents on ways to talk to their children about this event.  Encourage them to discuss your safety plans and to ask you questions.
  • Assure them that their children are safe in your school.  Tell them that you control as much as possible, that you are always on alert, and that you have plans in place to protect students.  Students are more safe in schools than almost anywhere else they will ever be.
  • Ensure your teachers that you believe in them and tell them how much you appreciate them for valuing the safety of their children.  There isn’t a teacher in your school that would not have done what those teachers in Newtown had done.  That’s what makes us special.

I’ll leave you with this final thought: Dawn Hochsprung was a principal that epitomized what it meant to be a change leader and defined the meaning of a true inspirational leader that would do anything for her students and staff.  She died trying to protect her students, staff, and the learning environment that she had helped create.  I know the legacy of her bravery and leadership will not be forgotten.

Visit this link, a Storify by George Couros, to read Dawn’s tweets about her school and see how much influence we have as school leaders and learn from her leadership.

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