Developing Plans To Support Students During A School Crises
A sad reality of the world we live in is the odds of serious school crises occurring. While the bunker drills of the Cold War era are becoming a distant memory, active shooter drills are now common ever since the 1999 Columbine shooting. The ever-present fire and tornado drills are still being engrained, as they should, but are overshadowed by the seemingly more likely occurrence of a severe school crisis such as an active shooter.
Reactions To A Crisis
One of the most important parts of a school crisis is keeping a clear head and not letting fear drive actions. This has led to training programs such as Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate (ALICE) becoming a regular part of a school’s plans for a crisis and a movement away from the originally more typical “lockdown” procedure.
The goal of both approaches is to maximize protection and safety through a clearly outlined plan that is practiced prior to a crisis. This serves to curb the initial fear and panic that occurs when a real incident starts.
Effects Of A Crisis
The National Association for Continuing Education created a detailed look at school crises and the effects they have on a school’s culture and its students. An inherent part of a school crisis is that it creates chaos and instability within a school not only during the crisis (which training programs like ALICE try to mitigate) but also with the aftereffects. The school’s safety, security, and in turn stability become heavily compromised and viewed by students, staff, and the community as faulty. This is a dangerous viewpoint to entertain because it erodes the system of trust on nearly every level.
What parent would want their child to stay in a school that can’t protect them? What teacher would want to teach at a school that put their lives and the lives of their students in danger? These are all important questions that even a seemingly ironclad crisis plan needs to wrestle with and answer.
Supporting Students After A Crisis
The U.S Department of Education places having a crisis plan implemented as a high priority for all schools but also stresses the importance of a recovery plan. The effects of a school crisis are felt long after the actual event. Some of the strategies highlighted are:
- Assess the event to learn what worked and didn’t work
- Meet with staff to create an assessment plan to help monitor students regarding the emotional impact of the crisis
- Implement a support system with counselors to help guide students through emotional support
- Give ample time for recovery
Thankfully, there are now numerous guides, strategies, and case studies on the different crisis plans available that give a holistic approach that focuses on the support of the students before, during, and after a crisis. It is up to a school’s board and administration to find a plan that works best for their district and their responsibility to their staff, students, and community to ensure that when a crisis occurs, everyone is as prepared as they can be.