Your Board’s Role in Designing a School Safety Plan
It is important to ensure that boards develop the appropriate processes to help schools keep students safe.
Boards are legally responsible for proper campus safety while also needing to remain focused on their mission of student learning. Some areas where boards tend to need additional help include:
- Clarifying the roles & responsibilities of the board in relation to the staff in developing safety protocols.
- Developing the process for each school to assess their strengths and weaknesses and ensuring that the results of these assessments are shared with the board.
- Ensuring staff have the adequate resources, tools, and support needed to develop actionable processes and protocols for each safety situation that can arise on campus, including, but not limited to, gun violence, emotional well-being, sexual violence, etc.
- Properly advocating for safety processes and ensuring that the appropriate level of funds needed by the school’s staff is a priority goal for the organization.
5 Steps to Help Educate Your Board on Safety Topics
In order for your board to develop the process that helps staff address and implement a school safety plan, they must be educated on how to effectively conduct oversight of it. Bringing in experts to educate them on different safety topics and best practices in protocols, including mental health, suicide prevention, gun violence, and more, is entirely appropriate and most likely necessary.
During this session, you should also address what funding and resources are needed, what state guidelines must be followed, and who is overseeing that the protocols are implemented and followed.
Some steps that we recommend for boards to ensure they are properly educated include:
1. Ask your CEO or school leaders to lead a board education session on campus safety. You should also ask your CEO to share with the board who their go-to experts are on the topic to see if they may also be able to provide some additional expertise.
2. Your board should be trained by an attorney, your authorizer, or your state charter school association on what policies are needed to adhere to your local, state, and federal regulations.
3. In locales in which the law enforcement operates in partnership with their communities and schools, the CEO and school administration can receive training by them on logistics and crisis management. In addition, your local police department may be able to provide a campus safety evaluation and make actionable recommendations for facility improvements, emergency response software, and drill protocols.
4. In many locales, local law enforcement is prepared to provide presentations on safety protocols. Most police departments have trained school resource officers for this purpose and are typically at no cost to the school.
5. Before approving an annual school safety plan, ask your CEO to provide examples from other, similar organizations so you may compare it to your school’s plan.
It is important your board ensures that your organization’s leadership creates and manages procedures that help schools address all facets of safety. Proper training and oversight within your school’s community helps mitigate the liability for your organization and ensures that your board is upholding its legal obligation to keep its students and staff safe.
It is your board’s responsibility to ensure that schools address these complex questions frequently to ensure your organization is prepared and has the proper training in place to respond to a crisis if need be. Many experts are addressing these issues; seek them out in your community, connect with your peers at similar organizations, and together we can build a common understanding and shared resources to tackle this challenging issue.
There are many excellent resources on this topic. A few to get you started:
With years in higher education, board governance, law, and state and local politics, Mike provides leadership and governance training to BoardOnTrack’s members.