3 leading strategies for protecting students when school reopen this fall
As schools begin to return to in-classroom learning this fall, they are faced with numerous challenges—an ongoing pandemic, fears related to acts of violence, mental health concerns and more. Together, these challenges can create myriad risks for students, faculty and teachers—and schools must have plans and documented procedures in place that prepare them to address all those risks, and more.
A recent survey conducted by Rave Mobile Safety found that 57% of respondents are “extremely or very concerned” about the possibility of a crisis putting their safety or the safety of a loved one in danger in school settings. Behind this sentiment is an acknowledgment that the social isolation and mental health pressures of the pandemic have had a tangible, negative effect on the psychological health of students.
By implementing the right policies, strategies and tools, schools can address key concerns and ensure a safe return for all.
Prioritize student mental health
According to a recent Reuters survey, 74% of districts polled reported multiple indicators of increased mental health stresses among students. Overcoming these issues will require more than simply bringing everyone back to the classroom, and schools must offer students ample mental health support to help them navigate their return.
Administrators must provide multiple resources for students to get support when they need it. While many schools plan to hire additional counselors and mental health professionals to meet with students, there are also ways technology can extend these efforts.
For example, schools can set up anonymous tip solutions to allow for secure, private reporting. This way, students who would otherwise be afraid to share when they or their peers are experiencing mental distress, or plan to act out in violence, have an outlet to disclose critical information quickly and easily.
Technology can ensure that students have a confidential channel of communication.
Communicate regularly and clearly
Clear and consistent communication will continue to be paramount throughout the entire school year, as students, parents and faculty re-adjust to in-person learning and still changing guidance amid the delta variant. Schools must lean on mass communication systems to share important information regularly and give clear instruction in the event of an emergency.
Administrators should configure mass communication systems to deliver different types of messages through various channels depending on the urgency of the situation. For example, automated phone calls and text messages should generally be leveraged for real-time, urgent updates while emails can be reserved for useful but non-urgent information.
Administrators can also target communications to specific audiences (e.g., teachers by grade, staff by building), rather than send messages to everyone en masse. Doing so minimizes alert fatigue and increases the likelihood that the right message is shared with the right recipients. For instance, if there’s a threat of violence, notifying district officials would look different than the message that provides guidance to teachers and staff onsite.
Create a school safety ecosystem
Given the challenges facing schools today, administrators can simplify their approach to school safety by leveraging technology to deploy an off-the-shelf integrated safety ecosystem through which faculty on campus can easily connect with outside emergency responders. School safety solutions like this streamline communication across school faculty, district officials, police, fire, EMS and other response teams to give real-time situational awareness as an emergency event unfolds.
For instance, mobile panic buttons offer an instantaneous way for faculty to alert first responders in the event of an emergency while also connecting to 911. If a medical emergency occurs on a sports field and a coach presses the panic button, in a connected ecosystem, the school nurse would get a notification, as well as EMS and 911. The simultaneous notifications mean that the student gets medical attention sooner.
Schools are up against a lot of challenges this coming school year. However, technology can help enhance efforts to support student mental health and safety by creating a more collaborative approach to communication and emergency response. With a strategy for school safety, administrators can focus on helping students achieve their highest potential.
Todd Miller is the senior vice president of strategic programs at Rave Mobile Safety.