March 20, 2019
As a reminder, last spring the Wisconsin Legislature passed Act 143 to encourage school districts to analyze and improve emergency procedures and protocols. (In our last October Family News update, we told you about a new reporting requirement and about the progress of some technology and infrastructure upgrades.)
As you may remember, as a part of Act 143, districts are required to conduct annual safety assessments of all schools. We completed these last November and will complete them again in fall 2019.
The assessments gave us an opportunity to capture each school’s existing safety practices and protocols and look closely at building access, visitor procedures, security staffing, supervision of students, climate survey data, after-hours security, transportation, physical and mental health services, crisis communications, community-building techniques and more, as they relate to school safety.
Through the process we identified areas of strength and also opportunities for improvement and standardization across the district, including technology, building signage, building access and communication.
We will be assessing all schools annually in order to continually revise and strengthen our safety and security systems and structures.
Also required by Act 143, we developed comprehensive written safety plans for each school and submitted these plans to the school board and to the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Office of School safety in December.
The plans outline strategies preventing incidents from taking place, how we are prepared for them if they do occur, what our response looks like and our steps for recovering from an incident. You can find this information in our public district safety plan.
Individual school safety plans supplement the district plan and contain confidential information that staff, the district and emergency responders would need in an emergency. Examples include school safety team emergency contact information, a breakdown of staff and students,, bus lists, traffic safety plans, any safety hazards in the area, a map of cameras, floor plans, evacuation sites, information about surrounding neighborhoods and so on.
The plans establish a baseline and will serve as guides as we continue to evaluate and update them annually.
Staff and Student Training
Throughout winter and continuing this spring and summer, district and school staff members, depending on their role, are receiving training in trauma-informed practices, non-violent crisis intervention, incident command structures and standard response protocol (more on this below).
Through spring we are also developing new training for staff in emergency communications, active supervision plans, reunification protocol and required emergency drills to have in place for the 2019-2020 school year.
Standardizing our Emergency Response Protocol
We are currently preparing to shift all our schools to the Standard Response Protocol in the fall, reflecting guidance from the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Office of School Safety and national recommendations on school safety.
The protocol incorporates many of the concepts already in use but offers more clarity and consistency in terminology across the district for staff, students, families and emergency responders. The Standard Response Protocol includes the following: Lockdown, Lockout, Evacuate, Shelter and Hold.
We will be sharing more with you about this in the coming months, and about training for staff and students, specific plans for students with disabilities and improved family communication before, during and after an emergency.
In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Wisconsin’s 2018 School Safety Initiative and Act 143, the DOJ has put together these Frequently Asked Questions & Answers.