School safety affects everyone within a school. The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments reports that the levels of issues like crime and substance abuse in a school are correlated to test scores, graduation rates, and attendance rates. It’s challenging to address and prevent these concerns without a good understanding of what issues exist in a school, along with any patterns or further learning through analysis.
This is why tracking incidents is one of the first steps in addressing them. School safety incident tracking is key to creating and maintaining policies and procedures that keep student and staff safety at the forefront for superintendents and administrators. Decision-makers can look at the frequency of incidents and potential factors, such as the activity, staff, or setting involved.
Evidence shows that taking concrete steps toward improved school safety is working. A National Center for Education Statistics at IES report highlights that to maintain and promote discipline, order, and safety, schools across the United States have put measures into place to prevent and respond to incidents of concern. Schools have increased the use of safety and security measures like controlled access, security cameras, photo ID, and security staff, NCES reports. In the meantime, the overall percentage of schools taking severe disciplinary action for reported offenses was lower in the 2019-20 school year versus the decade prior, 2009-10.
What incidents should superintendents and administrators address? Here are some key red flags, along with some examples of positive incidents to track.
Addressing Incidents of Concern
Especially following a global pandemic, facility safety and security are clear concerns for many. Facility health and safety impact everyone in the building and can lead to other health or security concerns. For example, today’s broken window could become tonight’s break and enter.
Tracking facility incidents allows superintendents, administrators and other key stakeholders to ensure hazards are dealt with quickly.
Vandalism may fall under facility safety or behavior concerns depending on the situation and if a student is identified as the vandal.
The presence of gangs and hate speech are still concerns, whether students hear hate speech or see it as graffiti. Fights and other examples of disorder are also important to track. Specific incidents could include aggression toward another, causing harm or pain, uttering threats, running away from a classroom or building, or continued challenging behavior when not developmentally expected, depending on the age of the people involved. Breaking or destroying items, for example, might be an incident to report for a high school student versus within a kindergarten classroom.
Both the behavior of students and staff/faculty can be tracked in an incident reporting system to ensure that anything abnormal is noted appropriately.
Abuse, Bullying, and Self-Harm
Bullying is a critical form of student victimization for schools to address. Bullied students face depression, anxiety, health concerns, and school avoidance, and some also become implicated in further school safety incidents. Research shows that bullying can leave lasting impacts, to the point that it is an Adverse Childhood Experience.
Abuse is an incident that must be reported not only in an incident tracking system but to the appropriate authorities. In most situations, school staff is mandated to report any abuse incidents, disclosures, and any suspicions they may have. Self-harm of any type, whether it is happening at school or suspected by someone from school observing a student, is essential to track.
Using Alcohol and other illicit drugs is correlated with adverse educational and health outcomes, according to the CDC. Schools can track confirmed substance issues, such as having substances or paraphernalia at school and signs that a student or staff member may be struggling. Keeping track of incidents ensures a greater chance of providing support when it is needed.
Weapons of any type are clearly a safety concern for schools, and incidents involving weapons must be addressed and tracked diligently.
One of the best ways to change challenging behavior is to reward positive behavior. Research suggests making five positive comments for every behavioral redirection! Helping in the classroom, being a good friend, standing up for others, or going above and beyond as a staff member are all positive, successful behaviors worth monitoring and rewarding.
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.
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K-12 Safest Schools: for Superintendents & Administrators: Part 7 of 10 – Escalating Important Issues
Many smaller-scale school safety and morale issues can be dealt with at the school level without much or any intervention