TSDPCA elects new Officers at Conference
Officers for the 2021-2023 Biennium are:
President: Chief Solomon Cook, Humble ISD
1st Vice President: Chief Bill Avera, Jacksonville ISD
2nd Vice President: Chief Jeremy Scruggs, Ennis ISD
3rd Vice President: Chief Kirby Warnke, Corpus Christi ISD
4th Vice President: Chief Charles McDuffie, Atlanta (TX) ISD
Immediate Past President: Chief David Kimberly, Klein ISD
Secretary: Chief Alan Bragg (Retired)
Treasurer: Chief Jimmy Womack (Retired)
Guidance for Responding to Recent Acts of School Violence
Dear Texas Schools,
Our hearts go out to the students, staff, first responders, and families impacted by the most recent senseless acts of school violence in our state. In the wake of these events, the Texas School Safety Center has prepared some points of consideration to assist you in the coming days, weeks, and months:
- Safety and Security Processes: Take this opportunity to visit your safety and security processes and have collaborative conversations with local law enforcement and emergency management agencies in your efforts to continually identify and improve safety and security challenges. Consider taking a few moments to discuss safety with your staff and students. This is an appropriate time to review your Multi-hazard Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) with staff, specifically intruder protocols, and even offsite reunification protocols. The Texas School Safety Center provides a High-Quality Multi-hazard EOP Toolkit on developing a high-quality emergency operations plan, along with a sample plan.
We have used observations from a statewide review of K-12 and public charter school districts to begin a multi-hazard EOP development course series made purposefully accessible to the average school district employee. Our first course in the series, found in the School Safety Learning Portal, , introduces the broad community to emergency planning for K-12 school districts, public charter districts and junior colleges. Future courses will address how to create major components of the plan as well as prepare districts to address specific hazards and functions of emergency management.
Additionally, the Texas School Safety Center provides a K-12 Standard Response Protocol (SRP) Toolkit which offers guidance and resources for incorporating the SRP into the emergency operations plan for critical incident response within individual schools in a district. The SRP (Texas Edition) Toolkit provides flexibility for local decision making by individual schools.
Further, the Texas School Safety Center provides the K-12 Standard Reunification Method Toolkit. School emergencies may require an evacuation or change in operational schedules of a school, necessitating a well-organized and structured way to reunite students with parents. Reunification plans include district resources and community partners who can offer assistance for families during and after a traumatic event. Coordinating with your local resources is important when planning for these emergencies.
- Access Control: Review your access control measures with all staff. Only admit people to your building once you know who they are, and ensure they have a legitimate reason to be in your building. You have the right to deny admittance to your building and do not hesitate to call law enforcement immediately if you consider something to be suspicious. This may be a good time to conduct periodic sweeps of the school and check for propped doors. Remind all visitors of the requirement to sign out at the office when leaving the school.
- Anonymous Reporting Systems: Research shows that those who wish to do harm to others often tell someone about their plans and that there was identifiable cause for concern prior to the attack. Remind parents and students of any anonymous reporting systems or other means to report issues of concern. A simple announcement or flyer that states, "if you see something, say something," and that school safety is everyone's responsibility would be appropriate. You may experience more reports with the increased news coverage of school violence.
- Communication: Be prepared to address your parents and the community. After the Sandy Hook tragedy, many schools took proactive measures with a message or letter home to parents. Wording can be similar to the following:
"The tragedies in Timberview High School and Yes Prep Southwest remind us all of the importance of safety and security in schools. We want to assure our families that our district and schools have an updated emergency operations plan that has been created/reviewed in collaboration with local law enforcement. The members of our staff have been trained on the specifics of this plan, and we conduct periodic drills to ensure that everyone knows their role during a crisis. Our district also has specific protocols for entry to our schools, and we appreciate the understanding of our parents as we enforce these protocols for the safety of our children. The safety of our students remains our highest priority."
Parents may want to learn more about your plan, or even review the plan. Please be aware that your district's emergency operations plan is subject to disclosure regarding certain information as outlined in Texas Education Code, 37.108 (c-2). You should not disclose any details of the plan beyond what is allowed that would compromise the integrity of the plan itself. Be very general when discussing details of your safety plan and cite the previous code as justification.
- The Contagion Effect: You should be aware that often schools experience an increase in incidents during the coming weeks following such a tragic event with regards to hit lists, threats, and rumors. Experience has shown there is a "contagion effect" that impacts communities after a highly publicized event such as this. Social media will likely play a role in upcoming incidents, so consider your role in monitoring and addressing this outlet and listening to students reporting concerns. All threats should be taken seriously. Remember to use local resources and collaborative partners in law enforcement to investigate.
- School Behavioral Threat Assessment: School Behavioral Threat Assessment is considered a best practice for preventing targeted school violence. There are several school behavioral threat assessment resources available and working with your local resources is key. Training is available for all district and school staff members conducting school behavioral threat assessments and we offer a School Behavioral Threat Assessment Toolkit.
- Local First Responders: Meet with local first responders and request increased law enforcement visibility at your schools. Offer tours for law enforcement who may not be familiar with the school. If you have had difficulty working with local first responders, there is no better time to address that issue. Working with your local first responders and county emergency management to discuss safety plans and concerns over specific threats is critical. Information sharing is key when preventing attacks on schools.
- Social Media: With social media being such an important part of youth’s lives, we need to make extraordinary attempts to reach youth when these major events occur. Youth are apt to look for support and connection with their peers through social media, and often assume that they should be able to cope with things on their own. That means youth have only the level of wisdom of their peers to help see them through these difficult times, and adults and parents may have more difficulty in determining when they need additional support. This guide, Psychological Impact of the Recent Shooting, provides more information.
- Resources for Parents: Parents may reach out for resources and providing them with tips on how to have these important conversations can provide a sense of context and safety. The following message and the resource, Age-Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event, can be used with parents:
“As there will continue to be media coverage on these events in the coming days and weeks, it is worth taking a moment to think about the importance of starting the conversation in a way that will invite youth into the conversation and avoid making them defensive. One way of doing that is making your child/student "the expert." So instead of mentioning the shooting and asking whether your child/student is anxious, consider framing it something like, "There has been some coverage in the news about the recent school shootings. What have you heard?” And then just listen. We often jump in too quickly to reassure youth, when what they really want and need is for us to listen to their concerns. When we move too quickly to reassurance, we stop the conversation at that point. It is far more effective to ask them to tell us more. Then, engage your child/student in conveying their thoughts about a range of ideas or possible solutions.
The greatest outcome of these conversations is when we leave youth knowing that we are willing for them to talk with us about anything. An expression in the crisis response community is "never waste a crisis," and this is your opportunity as well - don't waste this opportunity to connect deeply with your children/students. Setting the stage for more open communication about all kinds of things in the future is key.”
The Texas School Safety Center has developed A Parent’s Guide to School Safety Toolkit and Cyber Safety and Digital Responsibility: A Parent's Guide for you to use as resources for parents.