School Safety: Advocating for Best Practices in K12
By Celeste Hall and Ryan Love
The May 2022 school shooting at Uvalde Elementary School in Texas brought both grief and anger as we consider the unspeakable losses that the families have experienced and the trauma experienced by the whole community. We are reminded of the risks that are inherent in the work that we do. We do our best to prepare for the worst day while we go into our schools working to provide the best days for our students and their families.
During the 2022 NCDA Conference in Anaheim California, Ryan Love, the Safety Officer for Cajon Valley Schools in San Diego (CVUSD) presented to the NCDA K-12 Constituency Group about the procedures for safety and security that have been implemented in that school district. Here is a brief description of interventions that address many different issues related to safe schools.
Counseling Team - To reduce the risk of an incident, the counseling team and school security will routinely collaborate with each other which helps identify individuals whose behaviors cause concern. They facilitate communication related to those concerns to the involved parties. Afterwards, teams can conduct threat assessments and refer individuals to appropriate services. The system employees 49 counselors and 8 therapists who service the needs of our students with the focus on student achievement, attendance and behavior.
Parent Square – A communication platform between the school district and our families. Messaging can be sent to the entire school district, or it can be tailored to specific grade levels, classrooms, or groups. The ability to provide timely updates can reduce stress and anxiety for staff and the community.
Campus Safety Team - In 2019 The Cajon Valley Unified School District hired seven additional Campus Safety Leads who have a law enforcement background. Aside from safety and security, Campus Safety Leads connect and build relationships with students and provide a positive role model as a “trusted adult” on campus.
Crime Stoppers Portal - This portal allow students to anonymously report concerning events on or near a school campus.
Emergency Notification Cards – Posted on all land line phones in the school, these cards remind staff of emergency procedures.
ALICE Procedures - ALICE stands for Alert – Lockdown – Inform – Counter- Evacuate. In 2020, CVUSD adopted the ALICE strategies and trained the staff. Our district does not rely on a LOCKDOWN only approach if ever faced with a Violent Critical Incident.
Safety Videos - These videos were created to inform staff about the emergency procedures.
Handle with Care – This program is a collaboration with the police department and district attorney’s office to inform the school when one of their students has been involved in a traumatizing event. In 2020, we collaborated with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office and local law enforcement to address mental health in the community. Whenever an officer becomes aware of a student who has been exposed to any type of trauma, i.e., domestic violence, death in the family, incarcerated family member, etc., the officer makes an entry into the Handle with Care App and the school’s administrator where that child attends is immediately notified along with the Coordinator, Safety and Security. The administrators are required to notify the student's teacher that the student recently experience an adverse childhood experience, so as to be more mindful of the students mental status and to “handle that child with care”.
Lock Block Devices - Installed on doors, these remind teachers that doors should remain locked, though not closed throughout the school day. Once you disengage the LokBlok device, the door can be closed and locked without having to fumble with keys during a stressful event.
Panic Alert – Part of the visitor management system, this system can be used by the staff to alert the safety team whenever a need arises. The Raptor alert interface can be customized from a low-level situation, like a fight in the classroom, so teachers can alert an administrator, and/or alert the safety team to the most violent critical Incident.
Federal Funding - In 2021, the district applied for the School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP) COPS grant. The funding was awarded in the amount of $678,178.86 and will help institute safety measures in and around campus, support school violence prevention efforts, provide training to school personnel and students, and implement evidence-based threat assessments.
Continuous Review and Updating of Safety Procedures – Our district recognizes the importance of having an outside consultant team come and perform Infrastructure assessments, emergency drill observations, review of our emergency operation site safety plans and provide any recommendations for improvements as it relates to federal, state and local guidelines. In 2022, CVUSD will be seeking an outside consultant team to provide those assessments for all our district sites.
Intervention Tools and Resources
Here are some resources related to school safety and advocacy that career professionals may want to become familiar with:
- School Safety – Family Resources from the National PTA: https://www.pta.org Path: Home -> Safety -> School Safety
- After A School Shooting Resources – American School Counselor Association: www.schoolcounselor.org
- Sandy Hook Promise: www.Sandyhookpromise.org
- School Safety Resources: www.schoolSafety.gov
- National Center on Safe Supportive Learning: https://safesupportivelearning.ed.gov
The Ethical Value of Advocacy and Self-Care
While the NCDA Code of Ethics does not directly speak to the career professionals obligation to advocate for safety in our schools, the responsibility to provide a learning environment that “avoids actions that cause harm and work for the good of the individual and society by promoting mental health and well being” (NCDA Code of Ethics, 2015, Preamble) certainly does. As the Board Trustee for the constituency group of the National Career Development Association, Celeste Hall believes that it is part of our role as career professionals to seek ways to support efforts that provide safe and nurturing learning environments for students, parents and all of those who work in schools. Celeste seeks input related to this topic and welcomes ideas about how this constituency can work within NCDA toward this goal.
The NCDA Code of Ethics also speaks to our responsibility for self-care. It is important to engage in activities that bring you a sense of peace and rest throughout the coming school year.
National Career Development Association. (2015). Code of ethics. Author. https://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/asset_manager/get_file/3395?ver=738700
Celeste Hall, M.Ed, FCD Instructor, CCSP, is the NCDA Board Trustee for K-12 School Career Counselors and Specialists. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ryan Love, MPA, is the Coordinator of Safety and Security Officer at the Cajon Valley Unified School District. He can be reached at email@example.com