4 security tactics you should follow as schools reopen

How to communicate critical messages and track student trauma
By: | April 12, 2021

With much focus on re-engaging students in learning as more schools reopen, administrators are also re-committing to security beyond PPE and COVID precautions.

“We need to plan for the unplanned,” says Todd Miller, the senior vice president of strategic programs at emergency communications provider Rave Mobile Safety. “There have been a lot of changes over the last year in terms of guidance and direction, and we can take the lessons learned over past year and make sure they are incorporated into the ongoing process.”

Miller recommends the following safety and security practices as students return to classrooms:

1. Ensure families see the most important messages. The pandemic has forced schools to ratchet up communications with parents and families to the degree that some messages may get lost.

Administrators with the best intentions of keeping the community informed have faced the challenges of communicating changing CDC guidelines and shifts between in-person and online learning.

For the most important messages, recorded phone messages may be effective because they are more likely to stand out from e-mails and other digital communications.

“A multi-modal approach is going to be best,” Miller says. “Sometimes send an email, sometimes it’s a text message or a push notification to an app. Each one of those modes will reach and resonate with different types of users.”

2. How to keep staff well-informed. An app, with alerts, may be the best way to make sure teachers see the most important messages as they also sift through communications from principals and the central office.

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“Sending push notifications can rise above the level of other communications so teachers receive them in a timely manner,” Miller says.

Digitizing handbooks and other emergency planning documents is another way to ensure that staff can more easily access critical information, Miller says.

3. Tracking student trauma. The full scope of the trauma students have experienced may not become apparent until more children return to school.

Along with isolation, illness and learning loss, students have also been exposed to higher rates of domestic violence. This could lead to behavioral problems at school, Miller says.

“We encourage schools to offer additional modes where families and students can express their concerns or reach out and ask for help, maybe in an anonymous fashion,” he says .”We can enable a student to raise their hand and say maybe another student is not doing OK.”

Districts that don’t have such a system should consider implementing an anonymous reporting app so students can share concerns about a classmate who may be struggling.

4. Putting panic buttons in place. Florida and New Jersey have passed Alyssa’s Law, which requires schools to provide teachers and staff with mobile panic buttons in the event of a medical emergency, active shooter or other crises.

These app-based tools will be especially crucial for districts and schools that have stopped using school resource officers, Miller says.

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