Time to Revisit Your Building Safety Protocols and Procedures

wendyz@michiganprincipals.org's picture

The recent school shooting in Florida has caused every school in the nation to give pause, reflect, and revisit a host of issues related to school violence, including:

  • Safety/emergency protocols and procedures,
  • How student threats are handled and treated,
  • How to work with students involved in protests and walkouts,
  • How to keep the school and parent community informed as situations arise,
  • Ways students can report concerns, and
  • How to ensure the school community is a caring and inclusive place.

Principals, as you continue to monitor your campus and your students it is important to note that times have changed. In the past you may have investigated a student threat or report of abuse and neglect independently, then made a determination on your own as to the credibility of the threat and/or allegation, and how to respond. Building administrators can no longer operate in this vacuum. It cannot be stressed enough that the tragedy in Florida and at MSU regarding sexual abuse signals a need for heightened awareness and responsiveness to all threats, acts of violence, and suspected incidences of child abuse and neglect – even if they appear to be made casually or in jest.

It is essential that Principals work with their Superintendent and/or direct supervisor to revisit expectations and confirm protocols for addressing any and all threats, acts of violence, and allegations of abuse and neglect. This should include reading and discussing board policies, administrative guidelines, and protocols and procedures for handling acts that threaten the safety and welfare of students. It is essential for Principals to know exactly how central office leaders wants threats to be addressed, reported and investigated, including if and when police should be involved and who should make that phone call.

Please do not leave this to chance. If district leaders have not already called a meeting to review expectations, please pick up the phone and advocate for a meeting in the near future to address these issues, in order to ensure the safety and well-being of students and staff, as well as minimize risk and liability to you and the district.

In the very busy and hectic day of a building administrator, a threat to student safety has to take top priority in terms of investigation and the involvement of central office administrators, parents, and – when – appropriate law enforcement. When in doubt, call your Superintendent for direction.

Student Walk-Out Days

There are two prominent national student walk-out dates being heavily advertised on social media:

In anticipation of these dates local principals are reporting a variety of potential responses varying from working with student leaders to coordinate a school wide walk out where students where the same color shirts and form a message on the football field to some buildings proactively reporting to parents that any walkout without parent permission will be an unexcused absence. Knowing the potential for these walkouts to occur allows for administrators to take a proactive approach by discussing a potential response now. To assist you as you work through a possible response, MASSP has partnered with MASA, MAISA, MASB, MDE, MSBO and MSPRA to develop this guide, which was also emailed directly to MASSP members on Friday, February 23.

You may also want to talk to your Superintendent about joining the MASA and Thrun Law webinar – School Threats and Student Protests – scheduled for March 1st at 10am.

MASSP has also curated a list of articles and resources related to the shooting in Florida and subsequent student walkouts and protests. We hope that this guidance is helpful during this very challenging time. Please don’t hesitate to call the MASSP office if you need additional support or assistance.