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 from staff or stakeholders further up the chain of command. For instance, a classroom incident of name-calling could be a one-off issue that a teacher can handle (though they should, of course, note the behavior using a tracking system in case the problem grows more extensive in the future). However, specific issues can and must be escalated to superintendents, administrators, and some stakeholders, whether parents/guardians, police, or community support agencies.

Knowing what should be escalated, why, and how to involve other stakeholder input if needed is key to creating a safe, stable school and district environment. A system for reporting and tracking these incidents is, of course, vital. 

Escalating incidents are concerning, but the outlook is good in the report Averting Targeted School Violence: A US Secret Service Analysis of Plots Against Schools. School violence is preventable when communities identify warning signs and intervene, especially when schools intervene before behavior warrants legal consequences.

Using Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)

With multi-tiered systems of support, or MTSS, schools and districts can support struggling students in a targeted way. The idea behind it is to intervene with the support students need as soon as it seems they need it. You can picture MTSS as a triangle with a broad base on the bottom.

The first wide section of the triangle is the tier that encompasses all students. They receive high-quality instruction, behavioral monitoring, and general support to encourage safety and learning.

The second tier is in the middle of the triangle, as it gets smaller at the top. These students receive targeted intervention based on their identified needs. At the very top is the third tier of students who benefit from intensive support. This comes with their intense core instruction and support, and after targeted support.

Each student support element is data-based, meaning data collection and processing are essential. Teams using MTSS need to know that student data is accurate and timely, so they can be proactive in offering those additional tiers of support. Knowing which behaviors are being escalated, when, by whom, and what triggers may exist allows school-based teams and other stakeholders to narrow down the problem and target intervention strategies.

Including Outside Stakeholders

When using a system like MTSS or another method of identifying students who need more assistance and intervention, there will come the point where outside agencies should be involved. For incidents that should be escalated, such as weapons, drugs, or threats of violence, that could be law enforcement. Mental health, truancy, absenteeism, or self-harm could involve child welfare services or medical providers.

A data-based system can help your team understand who needs to be involved in supporting students and if their support is helping.

Understanding Privacy While Escalating Issues

As with most information and situations involving students and staff, privacy is vital when escalating issues. Only those who need to know should be privy to the details of the incident and the people involved. Often, there are federal, state and local laws that must be followed, such as FERPA.

FERPA, or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, defines what information schools can collect, maintain and disclose, with or without a student or guardian’s consent.

As EdTech explains, FERPA can impact IT leaders, superintendents, and administrators. Schools can be the target of IT threats, so any tech-based solution for escalating incidents needs to be tightly controlled.

Other laws include the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Children’s Internet Protection Act, and state laws in 42 states plus the District of Columbia.

These are concerns that superintendents and administrators should carefully consider. In Sharing Student Data Across Public Sectors, a report by the Center for Democracy and Technology, we see that 93 percent of parents of K-12 students in the United States consider it essential for schools and districts to engage them about how they plan to use student data. Yet, only 44 percent of parents say their school or district has asked for their input.

Before escalating a critical issue, work with stakeholders to understand and meet their privacy concerns. The GroupLink SafestSchools solution meets privacy concerns and offers multi-tiered systems of support. For further concerns about student privacy and how it intersects with data-based intervention, the US Department of Education provides some frequently asked questions.

Along with GroupLink for SafestSchools, we offer GroupLink Workflow Process & Incident Tracking and GroupLink everything HelpDesk. These programs support data collection and fidelity, with the confidentiality and integrity you need to do your job well.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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