‘Mood monitoring’ and 3 more steps to spot post-COVID threats
Experts encourage superintendents to deploy even more comprehensive safety strategies as students who’ve been traumatized during COVID re-acclimate to school.
Mental health-related emergency room visits for younger children and teens have both increased significantly over the past year, says Danielle Myers, the general manager of Status Solutions, which develops situational awareness safety technology.
However, it’s not just about hardening buildings. New tactics and technology can also help administrators better identify behavioral and emotional problems ahead of time, Myers says.
“We’ve heard over and over from schools, if we would have put data points together, we would have realized we had an issue,” Myers says.
For example, all classrooms in Blount County Schools in Tennessee are now connected to each other and the regional 911 call center when a teacher needs to report an emergency. Emergency responders also have access to school security cameras so they can monitor events unfolding in real-time.
Here are some important steps administrators can take to make schools more secure:
1. Quicker communications: Phone calls and walkie-talkie messages are no longer sufficient for today’s emergencies.
Everyone in a district needs to be linked to a communications system that can send instant alerts via text messages and push notifications from classroom to classroom, Myers says.
“You need tools in place so people know what’s going on and can react quickly—we’re talking seconds not minutes,” Myers says.
2. Monitor students more closely: Districts can do more “mood monitoring” of students by tracking regular data such as grades and attendance. But, with the right data system, teachers can also record if students show changes in behavior such as a sudden lack of engagement.
Educators can also track signs of stress and anxiety and survey students about sleep quality.
And this vigilance can extend to stakeholders and community members outside school buildings. For instance, a bus driver or even the owner of a local coffee shop could be linked to a system where they could report overhearing a troubling conversation among students, Myers says.
All of this data could be displayed on a dashboard that would alert administrators to potential security threats.
3. Proactive policing: A growing number of police departments are notifying school districts of domestic disputes and other incidents involving students that could impact their behavior in the classroom.
Handle With Care is one such program by which police are working more closely with schools.
4. Empower a safety task force: Giving full support to a district safety task force and developing a comprehensive safety plan.
This will take some pressure off classroom teachers who will be handling increased mental health issues in their classrooms, Myers says.