Jessamine County Schools

Safety Information Series

Part 4 of 6

Training and Reviews

School safety is a shared responsibility.   The JCS Safety Plan invests heavily in our people, dedicating time and resources to safety and preparedness planning.  Through training, we empower students and staff to safeguard themselves and others in the case of an emergency.   This knowledge, in the hands of our team, addresses the human behaviors that play a role in safety that can be just as important as physical hardware and technological security features.   Meaningful safety-related training is also wide-ranging and can include a multitude of topics.  While we offer training on subjects including how to foster a positive school climate and culture, mental and behavioral health, medication administration, first aid and CPR, and weather and environmental emergencies, our focus for this article is on training related to targeted threats to the safety of our students and staff.  

Our district partners with local law enforcement to offer a number of training events for staff and students.  We have conducted four intruder response trainings in the last five years for our employees and we will offer another training for administration, front office staff, and other personnel this summer.  Some staff have also participated in a Run/Hide/Defend training to educate them about the appropriate tactic(s) to use to safeguard their students and themselves, based upon an assessment of the threat and the factors of the situation at hand.  The training teaches participants when it might be appropriate to run away from a threat, hide from a perpetrator and/or defend oneself from an attack.  School Resource Officers and our Safety Director utilize this information when conducting awareness-level trainings for students as well.  The Run/Hide/Defend plan can be used in multiple scenarios and locations, including public settings such as malls, movie theaters, and event venues.  

Our district partners with local law enforcement and other emergency responders to practice school level tabletop exercises and training simulations. These trainings help to test our specific response procedures to threats, as well as practice the coordination with those in our community responding to the event.  Following a joint exercise with local law enforcement, we debrief and receive feedback on our performance and suggestions for improvement.  

Although a number of safety drills are required by law and must be conducted on a specific schedule, we view those drills as training exercises rather than simply fulfilling a requirement.  Drills provide an excellent opportunity for practice for the response to an emergency as well as the chance to define areas that need improvement.  We are intentionally adding drills with unique situations and multiple variables, to more closely reflect the unpredictable nature of emergency events.  The training aspect of our drills continues after the students have returned to learning in their classrooms, as district and school administrators conduct “after-action” reviews with staff and students following certain drills.  

Safety audits and reviews are a vital part of emergency management planning.  They provide a “big picture” view of school security and safety, helping us with the ongoing process of identifying, evaluating, and prioritizing strengths, risks, and areas of needed improvement before an emergency event ever occurs.   These reviews apply a team approach to consider all potential hazards, and may consist of conducting a walk-through survey, interviews of students and staff, policy and procedural review and records examination.   Reviews look for discrepancies between policies and procedures and actual processes.  The findings report is used to develop an action plan and update the district/school safety plan.     A comprehensive safety audit helps schools identify areas of security strengths and areas of needed improvement, make improvements to policies and procedures, and prepare schools to respond to a variety of crises.  

We rely on safety professionals and their recommendations to assist us in assessing the level of preparedness in our district.  The Kentucky Center for School Safety (CSS) regularly conducts safety audits of our schools, completing seven over the last four years, two of which occurred in just the past week.   During one of those recent audits, we were pleased to learn that the CSS reported that all students that were interviewed during the safety audit indicated that they felt safe on our campuses.  One member of the CSS audit team praised a JCS staff member for stopping him in a school hallway and escorting him to the office because he was not wearing a visible visitor badge.  This type of feedback is vital to determining safety plan strengths and areas that need improvement.  Findings and subsequent recommendations for improvements in each audit are applied to all district schools where appropriate, in order to maximize the benefits of the review and to ensure that all school safety plans are updated as necessary.   The CSS has also reviewed all JCS safety procedures to ensure that drills and emergency response plans meet the criteria for best practice.  

The district Director of Safety conducts district-level audits and monitors the results of school-level monthly audits.  These audits measure compliance with district safety procedures, track the completion of all required training and monitor the implementation of safety drills.    Safety walks for each school are also completed by the Director of Safety, ensuring that safety expectations are met, both during school time and afterschool activities.  Each school has a safety committee that also monitors the implementation of safety procedures and expectations as well as district-established protocol for school visitors.   

 

Planning and preparedness is a crucial component of school safety.  JCS utilizes a proactive approach to safety trainings, reviews, and audits and employs these methods to obtain valuable insight to better understand our schools’ unique situations and to assess and prioritize needs using best practices.   Safety audits help us to determine needs, meet those needs with a comprehensive plan, regularly update the plan, and train and empower our students and staff to respond appropriately.  

I hope that this overview of JCS safety training and audit reviews has given you some insight into how we continuously work to improve safety in our district.  If you have recommendations for future actions to ensure the safety of our students, staff, and visitors, please share them at this link.