Planning Against Violent Acts

Vol. 3 No. 7

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There has been a great deal of violence in the news this year. The Sandy Hook Elementary shootings and the Boston bombings shook us on a national level. Within our local communities, tragedies such as teacher sex scandals, vicious bullying, and drug/gang wars have made headlines. For students, rationalizing these acts can be a struggle. (Read Suggestions for Handling Tragic Events.) For adults—especially educators and administrators—making sense of these events and establishing risk management protocols can be frustrating—and emotionally exhausting.

When faced with such threats, it’s understandable for school officials to make emotionally charged decisions. However, when reacting to violence and crisis, it is vital that decisions stem from cognitive, analytical thinking. Having threat assessment protocols and emergency guidelines in place will help faculty and staff take logical actions in the event of a tragedy.

Practical Steps in Planning:

  • Make sure your approach is multidisciplinary. It’s the most effective type of plan.
  • Involve local first responders—firemen, police, and EMTs—in planning. Include practice time and drills.
  • Get all stakeholders, including parents, involved in the process.
  • Develop a separate crisis communication plan to get accurate information out during emergencies in a timely manner to parents, the media, and the broader community.
  • Include mental health resources and assistance for the immediate and longer-term needs of your students, families, faculty, and staff members in the event of a crisis.

The National School Safety and Security Services Web site offers additional steps for crisis planning as well as school examples that warranted heightened security.

Although these steps are designed to help your administration and staff react swiftly in a crisis, as we learned from the Sandy Hook shooting, no manner of security would have totally prevented the situation. The simple truth is, there is evil in the world, and it will find a way to surface.

Lawmakers and lobbyist groups are fighting for stricter gun laws and enforced security at schools. As recent as April 30, 2013, families of children killed in the Sandy Hook incident visited Trenton, NJ, to press lobby lawmakers to pass stricter limits on ammunition magazine sizes. This visit was on the same day as the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee took up seven bills aimed at reducing gun violence. One of these seven was a bill to create an electronic database to allow for instant background checks for gun buyers. However, even an electronic database and smaller ammunition magazines could not have prevented December’s school massacre—the shooter was not the owner of the weapons used.

Lessons Learned From Sandy Hook:

  • They had done extensive training.
  • Faculty and staff knew what to do, and felt confident in reacting according to their training.
  • They had follow up procedures in place (communication, mental-health resources, family support, etc.).
  • It’s likely that NO manner of security could have totally prevented the situation.

Additional ISM resources of interest
ISM Monthly Update for Division Heads Vol. 10 No. 8 Suggestions for Handling Tragic Events
ISM Monthly Update for Risk Managers Vol. 3 No. 4 Newtown School and Your School
Private School News Vol. 12 No. 1 Safer With Armed Guards?

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