K-12 Safest Schools: for Superintendents & Administrators: Part 6 of 10 – Nothing Falls Through the Cracks

Without a system in place to find out what is threatening school safety, log it, and take action, each incident — large or small — has the potential to fall through the cracks. When that happens, adverse outcomes follow for school morale, student safety and wellbeing, and educational goals.

Tracking incidents, and using the information gathered from that tracking, doesn’t have to be complicated. Quick, easy incident submissions have the power to transform school safety. Here’s how it works.

The Importance of Quick Submissions

The first step in ensuring school safety via incident tracking and reporting is making it easy for all stakeholders to submit their concerns. This means everyone – from students and families to staff members – and everything: all safety-related concerns, whether they could be cause for celebration such as a student supporting another, or resolution-focused.

In many situations, students may feel reluctant to submit an incident if they do not believe there will be follow through or if the system is cumbersome to navigate. Often, students are also afraid of retribution. Because of these concerns, it’s important to create and promote a system that allows for easy, private reports — and to prove the system works by following up.

Everyone needs to know what is worthy of documentation, who is required to report, and what the tools, procedures, and roles are to make submission as seamless as possible.

The Importance of Documentation

Some decision-makers may be reluctant to track incidents for fear of what they will find. There is always some level of negative stigma around school safety incidents. Nobody wants it to look like a school is unsafe. However, tracking and documenting school safety incidents allows for follow-up and accountability.

And documentation will help a school and its stakeholders if a significant incident happens or behavior escalates and as issues like public cyberbullying increase in schools. With incident tracking, information is gathered in a standardized and structured way. School stakeholders can show how an incident was handled, with confidence that the ‘paper trail’ is there.

As we will address further, actual paper systems are not ideal for this documentation. After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, Broward County schools were audited and advised to move to an electronic system.

Follow the Trends

A digital reporting system makes school safety easier to accomplish. Decision-makers don’t have to sift through manual, paper-based incident reports to find trends and risks. Automated metrics reporting is built in. For district-level staff, the trends can also be looked at across all schools in a system, improving insight.
By submitting even the most minor incident, the information can become part of a more extensive database by school or by the district. This will show student/staff behavior trends or how a particular class or focus population is doing. Those trends, in turn, are valuable for anticipating future issues, and for historical information.

Without these metrics, it’s hard to determine exactly how safe a school is or whether safety measures are effective. Seeing how prevalent specific incidents and behaviors are can motivate all stakeholders to do their part in improving school climate. It can also drive investment of time and other resources toward the people who need the most help.

As the National Center for Education Statistics says, reporting, tracking, and assessing trends over time are essential components of a safe school plan and help schools use often-scarce resources. The real data provided by incident reporting is a much more reliable guide than student, staff, and community impressions of school safety, especially for decision-makers who set policy and procedure.

Data Helps Triage

Trends are important, but what about dealing with incidents as they happen? Once an incident (large or small) is submitted, it can be triaged by a designated office assistant or administrator at the school level using a digital system. The incident could be closed at that time if it is appropriate. Or, it can be escalated to the principal or the district level.

Because the system is digital, no information is lost while triaging, even if the incident is sent to another person to handle. Everyone is working from the same information for a faster, fairer resolution.

GroupLink’s platforms, including GroupLink for SafestSchools, GroupLink Workflow Process & Incident Tracking, and GroupLink everything HelpDesk help stakeholders increase student safety and operational efficiency, collaboration, and accountability, while significantly reducing liability and risk associated with safety issues. Connect with us online or call us at 801-335-0700. You can also email us at info@grouplink.net to learn more.

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