Federal and state law enforcement extensively research school safety and how to avert school violence. The Secret Service in particular has released multiple reports in which they have identified key findings and implications for schools. These findings support many of our current practices and procedures. The description below indicates the approach and assessment of our safety measures at a level of detail that does not undermine our security measures.
It is essential to look at school safety within a comprehensive and balanced context. Safety planning in public spaces and schools must address four key tenets: Prevention, Assessment, Intervention and Management. It is this model that has guided District 211’s planning and practices for years and serves as the guidepost for both short and long-term planning.
Prevention of violence in our communities and within our schools is a shared responsibility between schools, medical and mental health providers, community service providers, law enforcement and families. Community safety must involve participation from all members of the community and the institutions that serve the community. The most effective way to best ensure safety is to prevent the conditions that perpetuate it. Within all District 211 schools, prevention is the most important aspect of school safety. Overwhelmingly, research into school safety and the underlying contributing factors to violence in schools illustrates the need for supportive learning environments that all students feel connected to. All District 211 schools emphasize positive school culture programs and emphasize initiatives that promote this including equitable environments, sense of belonging and identifiable trusted adults. When students are struggling or do not feel safe or connected, our safety reporting mechanisms allow our staff to act quickly to respond and allow our student support teams to intervene when students struggle.
This school year District 211 is expanding access and visibility of our safety concern reporting and we have partnered with Safe2Help Illinois to provide another mechanism for students to report personal or school safety concerns. We continue to expand our socio-emotional learning and trauma informed instruction and programming. Partnering with local police, we are exploring technology solutions to improve and expand our facility monitoring capabilities and we are increasing supervision presence during and after school to illustrate a few of the actions we are taking related to prevention.
The threat and safety environment within our communities and across the country continues to evolve with a multitude of considerations not only about who might intend to cause harm to our schools but the how, why and when. Assessing and understanding potential threats is essential.
Threat assessment procedures have become the most commonly and strongly emphasized recommendations by law enforcement and security professionals. Early detection and intervention with individuals who demonstrate concerning behavior and need support is essential.
For almost a decade, District 211 has used a research-based threat assessment approach that is implemented when students display threatening or concerning behavior. This tool has evolved to stay current with established and recommended best practices. Every time a threat assessment is warranted, school administrators consult and collaborate with our law enforcement partners from start to finish. Situations across the country have illustrated breakdowns between schools and law enforcement. These types of failures would not occur in our community because of the superb communication and partnership that exists between District 211 and the Palatine, Schaumburg, and Hoffman Estates Police Departments and the thoroughness and professionalism that we have experienced with each of these serving agencies.
Law enforcement assessment and crisis investigation reports consistently illustrate the need to intervene and support those who engage in concerning behavior early. Intervention isn't always removing access to resources and disconnecting students. In fact, most instances of mass harm in school came at the hands of individuals that demonstrated clear indicators of concerning behavior and were disconnected from their school and supportive services either through disciplinary responses or individual disengagement. We maintain and continue to expand and develop our behavioral responses, operate engaging and supportive alternative educational programming and encourage students to leverage the multitude of Student Support Services that we offer.
We involve our School Resource Officer or local police when the circumstances constitute a potential violation of the law and when a student’s behavior disrupts the school or poses a threat to the safety of students and staff. The School Resource Officer is assigned daily to each school and is a sworn and armed municipal law enforcement officer trained in juvenile law, de-escalation, and crisis prevention and intervention.
We are targeting our Multi-Tiered Systems of Support to more effectively identify and support students that are struggling and the implementation of the Panorama platform surveys and data will provide an effective mechanism to help monitor students when they are struggling.
Our goal and our emphasis always center on prevention and intervention. However, our safety planning must and does reflect measures and practices to respond when safety is compromised. District 211 emergency response protocols have been in place for years but are annually reassessed to reflect the most up to date recommendations from law enforcement and recommended best practices. Several years ago, we adopted the “Run, Hide, Survive” to empower students and staff to make decisions that maximize their safety. This model is practiced with teachers, and District 211 continues to run a self-imposed minimum of two safety drills yearly. In emergency situations, time is of the essence, we installed Blue Light stations throughout the school to eliminate potential delays of putting schools into lockdowns. Specific areas of our schools have been physically reinforced and we have worked to reduce building access from the outside.
We are implementing additional limited access facilities measures and entry monitoring processes and protocols. We are actively investigating additional entry and access security measures. Building level communication during emergencies is essential and work to fully upgrade our Public Address and emergency notification system in all buildings is underway.
This is not an exhaustive list of all of the ways in which we work to keep our students safe. There are aspects of school safety that District 211 has implemented that in order to maximize security within our schools, we do not illustrate publicly. We have collaborated with outside experts on school security and continue to partner with them for safety audits. We are committed to continually researching, updating and modifying buildings, procedures, protocols and practices – not just following the terrible tragedies we have seen unfold, but on an ongoing, proactive basis.
In addition to all that we do now and plan for in the future, it is imperative that our community collaborate with us. Student safety is a societal and community responsibility. We need the support of parents, families and local community partners. It is an indisputable fact that most individuals contemplating violence often exhibit observable behaviors prior to an incident and concerns almost always pre-date the actual violence. When parents, students, and community members report concerns, tragedies can be averted. We have administrators and staff ready to hear your concerns, investigate potential issues and provide support to students who are struggling. Our local law enforcement partners are ready and willing to collaborate with us.
We also ask that our parents speak with their students about the importance of utilizing our support systems. We have trained counselors, social workers and psychologists to offer assistance and support in times of conflict, stress, or trauma.
For further information, here is a link to the United States Department of Homeland Security, United States Secret Service, National Threat Assessment Center; Averting Targeted School Violence. Much of our planning, resources and protocols are reflected in these recommendations.
– Training Students to Report Threats
– Talking to Kids About School Safety
– Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers
– Teens and Screens
– Cyberbullying Awareness
– Sexting Awareness
– Responding to Sexting-Information for Parents
– On-line Safety Tool for Parents and Professionals
Personal Technology Safety Resources