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Seven Steps to a safer School




Expanded Explanation: Select a diverse group of persons who are the kind who get things done, have experience with data-based decision-making, and who are committed to the effort

Team Members: include administrators, teachers, pupils’ services personnel, students, parents, and selected community stakeholders

Expanded Explanation:

Although delegating the supervisory function of school safety planning to a representative team structure can have its drawbacks, usually in the form of slower progress toward the goal, the upsides are considerable. A well-organized team of committed, likeminded individuals can stimulate creative problem-solving, offer diverse perspectives, share the legwork, and help keep individual enthusiasm high.  Consequently, the selection process should be approached with an eye toward assembling the best possible group.  The key elements of an effective school safety planning team are:  

Production-Oriented: Look for individuals who have demonstrated a history of effective action in previous school-wide endeavors. Who are the people in the school who get things done?  To avoid burn-out, can one or more of these individuals be relieved of a current responsibility without substantial loss to another ongoing project?

Diverse: School safety will involve multiple human elements and systems in and outside of the school.  Identify individuals who can understand and represent the interests and needs of the major stakeholders, including those of students, teachers, parents, and community members.  Look for individuals who offer broad perspectives as sitting team members. Others can be called in as consultants when needed.

Evidence-Oriented: Gather individuals who have a respect for and experience with data-based decision-making. The universe of school violence prevention is fraught with slick curricula and quick-fix ideas that can seduce many an unwary educator.  Consequently, team membership should include individuals who know how to “go to the literature” to look for evidence support and know how to evaluate the effectiveness of implemented school programs and procedures.

Committed: The members of the school safety planning team must believe in the importance of their work, recognize the inherent difficulties that will be involved, and commit to be involved for the long haul. School safety planning needs to become a part of the fabric of the school, always assessing, always revising, and always planning for the next improvement

Team Membership :

From a personnel standpoint, the essential core members of the team include representatives from administration, teaching, and student services.  Additional membership from student, parent, and community groups are also critical, but care should be taken to keep the identified team at a manageable size (e.g., 5-7 members).

• Administrator: Any staff member can and should take the initiative to get the process started. However, unqualified support for the team needs to come from the school administration. Among myriad other concerns, school safety planning will raise issues related to budget expenditures, staff reassignment, training priorities, and curriculum adaptation.  These will require administrative input, expertise, and advocacy if positive outcomes are to be achieved.  The senior administrator need not actually sit on the School Safety Planning Team, but he or she must be vocally supportive and identify a subordinate administrative designee to the team.

• Teachers: Teaching staff members who have demonstrated skills in classroom behavior management and pedagogical innovation can make excellent School Safety Planning Team members.  Teacher members should be individuals who have earned the respect of their peers and who may be capable of exerting positive influence when large scale changes may be recommended.  Behavior specialists within the special education program should be considered.

• Pupil Services: With their expertise in program evaluation and dispositions toward data-based decision-making, school psychologists are essential School Safety Planning Team members.  Guidance counselors who have training and experience with evidence-supported interventions for problem behavior should also be considered.

• Other Members:  The parent representative should be an individual who can offer a broad perspective regarding the concerns of parents and serve as a liaison to other parents about School Safety Planning Team activities.  At the middle and high school levels, student representation can help the team to better understand the fears as well as the strengths and potential resources for change to exist in the student body.  A community representative should be someone with a direct or indirect stake in issues of safety in the school building.  Depending on individual situations, this person may be a police liaison officer or someone from the juvenile court system, a member of the clergy, a local merchant, or an elected local government official, to mention a few possibilities.Once the team has been assembled, designate or appoint a chairperson (a school person other than the administrator) and set the meeting schedule.

This web site has been produced by The Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment to provide research-based school violence prevention procedures for educators. The web site has been made possible with the generous support of the Robert and Renee Belfer Foundation and other supporters.
The Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment to provide research-based school violence prevention procedures for educators
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