Sunday, August 3, 2014

Implementing the U.S. Department of Education's School Safety Report... Beginning THIS Year

Resources to Prepare your School at the Policy, Procedure, and Practice Levels:  Completing Safety Audits, Teaching School Area Routines, Passing Teasing/Bullying Policies, and Creating Relationships 

Dear Colleagues,  

   Well. . . with the summer winding down, many of us are focusing our attention on preparing for a new and successful school year.
   As we do this, it is important to reflect on a number of related areas that have been especially highlighted over the past six to eight months:
   ***  Keeping our schools safe and secure

   ***  Establishing positive school climates--- that minimize teasing, taunting, bullying, harassment, hazing, and acts of physical aggression

   ***  Making school discipline, classroom management, and student self-management activities more prominent across school, school, and students 

   ***  Implementing behavioral accountability systems that eliminate disproportionate office discipline referrals and school suspension
   ***  Focusing more on interventions that change students' inappropriate behavior (when it exists), and less on punishments and placements that move the problems "out of sight"
   Most of these areas were addressed in the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and Justice (DOJ) School Discipline Guidance Package released this past January:
as well as in the Council of State Governments' Justice Center released a new report, The School Discipline Consensus Report:  Strategies from the Field to Keep Students Engaged in School and Out of the Juvenile Justice System.  
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Today's Focus--  FREE School Discipline Resources to Prepare for the New Year

   In order to address these different areas for the coming school year, it is important to take some or all of the following steps (accompanied by some of our most-popular resources) now, during the staff preparation week before the school year begins, and during the first day and week of the new school year:

    1.  Right now--before all of the staff and students return-- would be a great time to conduct a School Safety Audit and to make sure that your Emergency/Crisis Management and Response protocols are in place.  This should be coordinated with your district leaders, as well as with your local First Responders.

   To assist in this area, feel free to download the FREE School Safety and Emergency/Crisis Prevention Audit Technical Assistance Paper that is half-way down the following web-page:

   2.  Also right now, it is important to make sure that you have all of the rules--  or behavioral expectations-- prepared and posted in your common school areas (hallways, bathrooms, buses, playgrounds, common gathering areas, cafeteria, etc.).  These expectations should simply tell students what appropriate behavior they need to do in each of these areas.
   For example, appropriate hallway behavior could be as simple as:
   "Eyes forward, hands by your side, mouth quiet, 
    walk to the right, watch out for others around you"
   Cafeteria behavior would describe appropriate behavior and interactions:
   In the line. . . In the serving area getting food 
   Sitting down and eating. . . and Cleaning up and 
   Leaving the cafeteria

    Typically, the School Discipline Committee sets up these expectations with the school administrators, and all students are taught these expectations--  with behavioral practice and walk-throughs--  on the first day and week(s) of the school year.
   For more information about this area of school safety-- which often also addresses teasing, taunting, bullying, harassment, and physical aggression--  incidents that often occur in the common school areas, please watch the following webinar:
Keeping Common School Areas Safe
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   3.  During the staff planning days before the first day of school, all staff need to be trained on the most essential crisis and emergency procedures established at the administrative level (see #1 above), and discussions need to occur as to when students will be taught and will practice these procedures.

   Similarly, the School Discipline Committee can brief the staff on the common school area expectations (see #2 above), and discuss how and when students will be taught these procedures.
   Beyond this, it is strongly encouraged that staff discuss the district's policy on cyber-bullying, and that decisions are made as to when this issue will be discussed with students from (at least) Grade 3 through High School.

   This relates directly to district policies specifically related to Teasing, Bullying, and Harassment-- including Cyber-bullying.   

   Schools and districts may want to review our free Sample School District Policy Brief in these areas.  This document was written after an extensive review of state laws or educational regulations across the country in these areas, as well as school board policies from over 20 model school districts.  This TA paper is the third entry on the following web-page:


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   4.  Finally, during the first weeks of the school year, it is important for administrators to be present in the classrooms and the common school areas to reinforce both staff and student behaviors relative to school safety and discipline, classroom management, and student self-management.

   In the classroom, one tool that can help organize administrators' (or others') observations in these areas is a Behavioral Classroom Walk-through.  Through our Positive Behavioral Support System (PBSS) work in Arkansas, we developed a Behavioral Walk-through protocol that is free to you, and can be found about two-thirds down the following web-page link:

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  Clearly, there are many school-wide discipline activities that could occur before and during the first days of the school year, but we have tried to highlight the ones that we believe are most important and realistic.  To read about others--  organized in a three-year Positive Behavioral Support Implementation Blueprint, feel free to download our free PBSS Implementation Guidebook.

(Click on the Link below;  Find the document titled:  PBSS School Implement Fact Sheet)    
   This recently updated 100+ page resource has the following sections:
  • The Components of an Effective Positive Behavioral Support System (PBSS)
  • A Step-by-Step PBSS Implementation Blueprint
  • Professional Development Approaches and Resources
  • Evaluation and Outcomes
  • Appendices
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   I hope that these resources will be useful to you.  More important, I hope that your preparations for the new school year result in the positive school and classroom climates and relationships that are needed so that students and staff work together in productive, progression, and collaborative ways.
   Think about how you want the school year to begin, and make it happen.  Let me know if I can help in any way.