A school crisis can have a serious and profound impact on the entire school’s population. A school crisis can be defined as a devasting, sudden, uncontrolled and extremely negative event that has the potential to negatively impact a school’s community (Steeves, Metallo, Byrd, Erickson, & Gresham, 2017).
Although school shootings are the obvious school crisis on the minds of many Americans, school crisis also include events such as natural disasters, an unexpected death of a faculty/staff member or student, or a threatened death or injury, such as an assault, kidnapping or school intruder.
To make matters more stressful, most school communities do not have the resources to handle such events or do not have proper plans in place to properly handle the school crisis. This stress, along with the emotional stress that presents itself with a school crisis, can lead to considerable declines in academic achievement, school performance, and mental health functioning in affected students and personnel (Steeves, Metallo, Byrd, Erickson, & Gresham, 2017).
Effective crisis planning and preparedness to migrate possible events and their outcomes are crucial for maintaining order and minimizing distress during such events. To be most successful, crisis plans must be planned and practiced frequently. Although the legislation does not mandate guidelines for specific actions and strategies for schools to ensure safety, recommendations, such as a response plan in collaboration with local protection agencies, a crisis management team, and a timeline for drills to ensure adherence to the plan’s components, are suggested at the state level for school systems.
Through a dissertation study, conducted within rural and urban school districts in Louisiana, it was concluded that 57% of school employees did not feel they were adequately trained prior to being hired and less than half of those interviewed for the study felt they were prepared to handle a school crisis event after they were hired (Steeves, Metallo, Byrd, Erickson, & Gresham, 2017). Findings from this study proved the importance of ongoing training and assessing levels of preparation at the school level for all school employees. Furthermore, it was also concluded that school crisis plans should be evaluated, reviewed, practiced and modified every year to best fit the needs of the school. Preparedness is key when facing a school crisis event.
A school crisis event can be a scary and emotionally draining situation. Being prepared and well informed, I believe, is a key component to keeping a school community safe. Part of being prepared and well-informed requires a school administration to train, practice, and provide honest information regarding these type of situations. As a classroom teacher, I feel that I am inadequately trained to handle a crisis situation at my school. I have the crisis handbook. I have read the handbook and I attended the “explanation” meeting when the handbook was delivered. However, I do not feel that I have been properly trained to follow through with the steps and procedures mentioned in the manual. I understand that all situations are unique and there isn’t a foolproof plan, but after reading this article, and speaking with my coworkers, I concluded that additional training and information was needed at my school, especially in the suicide/sudden death and intruder on campus areas.
I found it interesting that the legislature doesn’t require component recommendations or guidelines for specific actions and strategies for schools to ensure safety. As an administrator, I would feel more secure knowing that my school crisis plan met the same requirements and guidelines as schools around the state or nation. This article revealed that some states require schools to create plans based on specific outlines, whereas other states do not require schools to have crisis plans at all (Steeves, Metallo, Byrd, Erickson, & Gresham, 2017). Although my specific school has a plan, and as an administrator, I would implement a plan, I am saddened that schools are not required to be prepared with a plan of action. In my personal opinion, universal standards are needed and more state-wide requirements, based on region for weather-type crisis situations, should be implemented and monitored. When it comes to a school community’s safety, I do not think simply having a crisis plan is efficient enough. Practice drills, routine training, and regularly updated data and information are also needed. I agree that preparedness is key when facing a school crisis event.