5 strategies for encouraging students to report safety threats

Research shows that school climate is one of the best indicators of whether students will report misconduct in their schools. Here's how you can help students feel valued and respected for their efforts to keep their school safe.

As districts near their final days of the 2022-23 school year, it’s time for administrators and superintendents to plan ahead. For many, that process may have already begun. One of the most prominent issues leaders are targeting surrounds school safety and for good reason.

This year, as one school safety expert predicted, proved to be yet another difficult one for students and educators alike. Between the multitude of threats plaguing K12 schools, including swatting hoaxes, ransomware attacks and school shootings, administrators and lawmakers are taking steps to ensure 2023-24 is a safer experience. However, there’s one stakeholder group that leaders should also rely on in creating safer schools: the students.

Research shows that school climate is one of the best indicators of whether students will report misconduct in their schools. That said, administrators play a vital role in building and maintaining that culture.

On Tuesday, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) released the “K-12 Bystander Reporting Toolkit,” the latest resource for leaders to strengthen safety reporting protocols and encourage students in the process. It also allows schools to tailor and customize approaches that fit the specific needs of their students and staff.

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The report emphasized five key takeaways for K12 leaders to consider as they continue their efforts to encourage bystander reporting in their schools:

  1. Encourage incident reporting for the safety and well-being of every student: The earlier the intervention the better. Look to local education agencies and communicates that can provide increased support to students. Reports can include incidents beyond school violence, including bullying, drug use, self-harm, suicidal ideations and depression.
  2. Reporting should be accessible and safe: The privacy of students and those impacted should be of utmost importance. Ensuring anonymity and/or confidentiality with incident reporting will help increase the likelihood that students will do it.
  3. Follow-up on reports and be transparent: There should be no uncertainty in the reporting process. If possible, use two-way communication to engage with reporting groups, be timely and share data.
  4. Make reporting part of the daily routine: The program must be recognizable and part of your school’s mission to develop a positive school climate. Use promotional materials and events throughout the year to remind students of the initiative.
  5. Build a climate where reporting is valued and respected: Students should view adults as trusted individuals. If possible, promote trusting relationships between students and school-based law enforcement or school resource officers.

“It is essential that we work with our partners to provide resources that can help prevent targeted school violence,” said CISA Executive Assistant Director for Infrastructure Security Dr. David Mussington in a statement. “Students and school communities deserve to be safe at school.”

Micah Ward
Micah Wardhttps://districtadministration.com
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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