from Jon Akers, executive director, Kentucky Center for School Safety (KCSS)

As the 2011-12 school year begins, these reminders should help leaders and administrators put several safety-related matters on the radar screen early in the school year. Superintendents are encouraged to send this information along to all district principals.

1. Remind all school principals to review and update their school-based emergency response and/or management plans. The same also should be done with school district plans. It is strongly recommended that all principals review this information with their classified and certified staff members before students arrive for the first day of school.

2. In addition to conducting fire, severe weather and earthquake drills, pursuant to KRS 158.164, there is to be a “lockdown procedure practice held at least once during each school year” at each school. After gathering data on when most lockdown drills were conducted during the first couple of years of the law’s implementation (2006-07), many of the initial drills were conducted during the second semester. A best practice in school safety would be to conduct at least the first lockdown drill during the first 30 days of school, much like the first fire drill. Urge school principals to follow this best practice.

3. Again last year, reports of parents/guardians exhibiting uncivil, unruly behavior toward school employees were received. Most school districts have policies addressing how parents are expected to behave on a school campus. It is recommended that if a school district has a policy such as this that it is made available to parents at the beginning of the school year. Working together to convey that professional courtesy is expected of all parties at a school and is in the best interest of all children.

4. “Back to School Safety Checklist” – This list is linked to websites that will help provide immediate information for the principals. Click here and scroll down.

5. “Talk to your kids about…” – This attached handout is something that parents and teachers should have. It gives suggestions on talking with kids about: suicide, bullying, cyber-bullying, drug/alcohol abuse and Internet safety. Most parent/teacher organizations will be interested in sending this information to parents/guardians. Consider having principals forward this document on to them as well. This is yet another way the school district can be seen as being proactive in addressing these issues.

Don’t forget: The 17th Annual Safe Schools Conference is Nov. 7-8 and sponsored by the Kentucky School Boards Association and KCSS.