Office of School Safety June 2021 Newsletter
Targeted School Violence is Preventable
U.S. Secret Service Analysis of Plots Against Schools
On March 11, 2021, the United States Secret Service/National Threat Assessment Center (USSS/NTAC) released a new report, Averting Targeted School Violence: A U.S. Secret Service Analysis of Plots Against Schools, which examined 67 plots to conduct a school attack that were averted in the United States (U.S.) from 2006 to 2018.
The report identified several key findings and commonalities across the 67 incidents
The USSS/NTAC report highlighted the use of state-operated reporting programs as an important tool for students. OK2SAY, Michigan's student safety tip line which provides students with the ability to report concerning behaviors displayed by their classmates, was identified in the USSS/NTAC report and subsequent presentation of their findings as one of the country's exemplary reporting programs. An encore presentation of these findings by the USSS/NTAC will be held on June 29, 2021, from 12:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Registration is available by using this link.
Engaged Bystanders and Risk Factors
On May 20, 2021, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) and Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (OTVTP) released the public awareness bulletin, Mitigating the Threat of School Violence as the U.S. "Returns to Normal" from the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond. This bulletin emphasizes the importance of engaged bystanders in schools and communities as a critical measure to prevent targeted acts of violence. "An engaged bystander…is aware of concerning behaviors and knows how to act on those concerns." Additionally, the DHS I&A and OTVTP provide important information regarding exposure to potential risk factors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic that may increase an individual's susceptibility to engage in acts of violence or other concerning behaviors. Through an understanding of these risk factors and the use of resources identified in the bulletin, schools can better support students and employees while also mitigating the threat of violence.
Emergency Operations Plans
Emergency operations plans (EOPs) are required by Michigan law for each school building of every school district, intermediate school district, and public school academy. This includes any building intended to be used to provide instruction for students, as well as any recreational/athletic structure or field intended to be used by students. EOPs must be approved by the appropriate school board and shall be reviewed in conjunction with local law enforcement at least once every two years, thereafter. The initial approval of EOPs occurred in 2019; therefore, the required review must occur before January 1, 2022, and recorded following the instructions provided in this Michigan Department of Education memo. New resources and tools are being developed by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Supportive Schools, which will be disseminated through this distribution list and available on the OSS website this fall.
School Nurses and the Medical Emergency Response Team
Ms. Evilia Jankowski, MSA, BSN, RN - Michigan Department of Education, State School Nurse Consultant
Presidential Policy Directive - 8 on national preparedness issued in 2011, aimed at strengthening the security and resilience of the United States through systematic preparation for the threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the nation, is the driving force behind school multi-hazard or disaster planning. The school nurse is a vital member of the school team who collaborates with community agencies to develop comprehensive emergency response procedures for situations that range from accidental injuries to mass casualty incidents (Cagginello, et al., 2019).
"School nurses have a unique role to protect and serve the nation's children whenever disaster strikes during the school day" (Kalekas, 2017, p. 458). Utilizing their expertise in assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation, school nurses provide valuable insights for the four phases of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery (Doyle, 2013).
School nurses in Michigan are developing and supporting Medical Emergency Response Teams (MERT) and plans in their schools to prepare for and respond effectively to emergency management threats.
The purpose of a Medical Emergency Response Plan is to outline the actions that will occur should a medical emergency situation arise. It indicates specific responsibilities for members of the MERT to provide medical care for an ill/injured student/staff member or to support the school nurse in caring for victims of mass casualty events, as they are triaged by emergency responders.
The MERT process includes partnerships with community agencies to fully implement the 4-Ds of MERT: Develop, Drill, Deliver the response, and Debrief. Without these partnerships, the response is not as effective and outcomes may be less than optimal.
For more information about MERT training and school nurses in your area, please contact the State of Michigan School Nurse Consultant, Evilia Jankowski, MSA, BSN, RN. at JankowskiE@michigan.gov or 517-335-8889.
Cagginello, J.B., Clark, S., Compton, L., Davis, C., Healy, M., Hoffman, S., & Tuck, C.M. (2011). Emergency preparedness - The role of the school nurse. National Association of School Nurses.https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED539215.pdf
Doyle, J. (2013). Emergency management, crisis response, and the school nurse's role. In J. Selekman (Ed.), School nursing: A comprehensive text (2nd ed., pp. 1216-1244). F.A. Davis Company.
Kalekas, L. (2017). Disaster preparedness for school health services. In C.A. Resha, & V. L. Taliaferro (Eds), Legal resource for school health services (pp. 457-467). SchoolNurse.com.
Outdoor Learning Spaces: Recommendations and Best Practices
As the weather improves throughout the spring and summer, K-12 schools may elect to utilize outdoor spaces for learning. Holding classes outside can reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection due to improved ventilation and easier social distancing but can also introduce additional safety risks. In order to create a safe outdoor learning and working environment, there are several recommendations and best practices that should be taken into consideration.
General Best Practices
- Notify local law enforcement and the local emergency manager about the use of outdoor space as a primary location for instruction. These officials may have specific recommendations on how to better secure the site and notification may allow emergency personnel to respond more efficiently, if needed.
- Communicate with parents/guardians regarding the use of the outdoor space and ask them to send their student to school prepared for learning outside.
- Consult parents/guardians regarding allergies or other needs.
- Maintain communication between educators utilizing the outdoor space and administrators in the building. If cell phones or two-way radios are used for this purpose, ensure that the devices are kept charged and have reception. The office number should be programmed into the phone for quick access in an emergency. If the school's public address system is to be used for communication, ensure that it is clearly audible at the learning site.
- Conduct drills while utilizing the outdoor space to ensure that educators and students are aware of what to do in an emergency.
- Ensure first-aid kits are readily accessible in all outdoor spaces.
- Follow the most up-to-date Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 guidelines.
Securing the Space
- Take measures to restrict physical access to the outdoor space by unauthorized individuals.
- Consider methods to obstruct the lines of sight from roads or parking lots (e.g., using tents, bushes, existing structures, etc.) when possible.
- Identify any potential hazards along the route between school property and any nearby locations that may be utilized as well.
- Take a head count before and after moving to the outdoor space.
- Advise students to immediately report to a teacher or other staff member if any unfamiliar person attempts to approach or speak to them.
- Inspect the outdoor space before each use for hazards (e.g., broken glass, damaged tree branches, insect nests, etc.).
- Inspect structures (e.g., tents, pavilions, canopies, etc.) prior to each use to ensure that they have not been damaged and are secure from tipping over or collapsing.
- Ensure that tables and chairs are secure and that any electrical cords are covered or are positioned so students cannot trip over them.
- Ensure fire extinguishers are readily accessible in all outdoor spaces.
- Advise students to immediately report any hazards they observe to an adult.
- Monitor weather conditions before and during the use of the outside space.
- Establish a procedure for moving students to a safe indoor space in the event of a sudden change in weather.
- Identify an alternate indoor space if the weather prevents the use of the outdoor space.
- Ensure that students are aware of the forecast and encourage them to layer, wear weather-appropriate clothing, and wear closed-toed shoes.
- Use existing or temporary structures to provide shade so educators and students are not in direct sunlight.
- Allow for time to apply sunscreen and insect repellent throughout the day.
- Provide frequent and easy access to water in order to prevent dehydration.
- Educate staff and students on the symptoms of heat-related illnesses. Students should be advised to notify an adult, and educators should notify another staff member, if they are experiencing symptoms. The CDC has published a quick reference guide for symptoms and responses to heat-related illnesses.
Barlev, T., Danks, S., Sclafani, C., Sheerazie, T., Striniste, N., Villamil, M., Yeghoian, A., & Young, A. (n.d.). Shade and Shelter. Green Schoolyards America. https://www.greenschoolyards.org/shelter
Ohio School Safety Center. (2021). Safety Considerations for Outdoor Classrooms. https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/OHOHS/2021/03/17/file_attachments/1 726677/Safety%20Considerations%20for%20Outdoor%20Classrooms.pdf
Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust. (n.d.). Safety Considerations for Outdoor Learning. https://www.vsbit.org/client_media/files/ML%20Resources/Outdoor%20Learning/Safety%20Considerations%20for%20Outdoor%20Learning.pdf
OK2SAY Releases 2020 Annual Report
The Michigan State Police announced the release of the OK2SAY 2020 Annual Report, noting the student safety program received 3,743 tips in 2020, with the most reported incident being suicide threats.
Tips were received in 31 categories, including these top five categories:
- 896 tips on suicide threats
- 456 tips on drugs
- 436 tips related to "other" (e.g., anxiety, stress, depression, harassment)
- 387 tips on cyberbullying
- 339 tips on sexual misconduct
OK2SAY is Michigan's most effective prevention-based reporting system, logging 27,528 cumulative tips as of April 2021 from students across Michigan since the program became operational in September 2014. The program was designed to empower Michigan students to help prevent violence and make their school safe by confidentially reporting threatening behavior.
Tips can be submitted the following ways:
- Call: 8-555-OK2SAY (855-565-2729)
- Text: 652729 (OK2SAY)
- Email: OK2SAY@mi.gov
- OK2SAY website: ok2say.com
- OK2SAY mobile app: Available for download in app stores for iPhone and Android
OK2SAY Emergency Contact
Public Act 401 of 2020 requires every public and nonpublic school to provide the Michigan State Police with at least one school official's emergency contact information twice a year. Ideally, each school should register the school official's contact information by September 1st and February 1st, and/or if changes in personnel reflect new responsibilities. This emergency after-hours contact information will allow OK2SAY technicians to efficiently communicate with school personnel about potential harm or criminal activities directed at school students, school employees, and schools. The contact information is kept confidential and only accessed if there is an after-hours emergency involving imminent danger to the safety or well-being of a student.
If you have not done so already, please provide the emergency contact information for your school on the OK2SAY website under Register School Contacts.