(from “Safe Schools,” page 95)
School districts should have plans in place to respond to a potential crisis or emergency, including a violent incident on campus. These plans should include a contingency for evacuation, notification of parents, notification of law enforcement or other appropriate agencies, communications with the media, follow-up counseling with students, staff development regarding emergency procedures and other related topics.
Communications are of particular importance during a crisis. Access to two-way communications devices allows staff to alert the office or law enforcement of dangerous situations. Some schools have installed telephones in each classroom, allowing for effective emergency communications. Walkie-talkies or personal alert transmitters permit staff to call for assistance from their rooms or from remote locations.
In a survey of 157 California public schools, 88 percent reported having site-specific disaster plans, most of which were annually reviewed. However, only 27 percent had an emergency response team, 29 percent had an emergency preparedness coordinator, and 22 percent had dedicated funding for emergency preparedness (Kano & Bourque, 2007). All these strategies can help districts respond more effectively in the event of a crisis on campus.
Violence that occurs within the community, even if it does not happen at school, also impacts many students, especially if they know someone who has been a victim. Some school districts have established more comprehensive crisis response programs in order to better support student recovery from such events. Community agencies may offer helpful site-based services as a part of this plan, such as mental health programs. These collaborative partners should be engaged prior to a crisis to secure their understanding of the overall crisis plan as well as provision of counseling activities immediately following a crisis or violent incident on campus.