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Office of School Safety March 2021 Newsletter

Greetings!

The Michigan State Police (MSP), Office of School Safety (OSS), is committed to delivering quality services to schools throughout the state of Michigan. By fostering communication with all stakeholders, the OSS will promote strategies to encourage safe and secure learning environments that reduce threats, build trust, and improve the quality of life for K-12 students in Michigan. The OSS will enhance safety and security measures in Michigan’s K-12 schools by providing model practices, safety assessments, training, grant writing, and administration.


Return to In-Person Instruction

As many districts around the state consider in-person instruction for the first time this school year, it will likely require some adjustments to school safety. To provide a safe environment for learning and working, it is important to have a keen awareness of the factors that have and will continue to affect the school community and ensure school safety practices and procedures are part of a system of care and support for all stakeholders. The following recommendations should be considered when developing practices and procedures for school resource officers (SROs) and security personnel:

  • Integrate school security personnel and/or SROs into general school activities and settings (where their primary role is not enforcement) as a means to establish and build trust with staff, students, and families.
  • Establish clear guidelines with school security personnel and/or SROs regarding enforcement of COVID-19 related practices (e.g., social distancing, use of masks).
  • Understand that uniformed personnel such as SROs and security could be especially triggering to staff and students depending on trauma experiences.
    • Consider alternatives (e.g., polo shirt, t-shirt) to traditional law enforcement uniforms (e.g., class A or class B uniforms) for SROs and security personnel.
    • Recognize that the very appearance of uniformed personnel can have unintended effects on a myriad of stakeholders.
  • Avoid having SROs respond to non-criminal incidents such as school rule violations or solely to enforce disciplinary measures (e.g., student refusing to go to the office, escort student to in-school suspension).

Additional school safety recommendations for returning to in-person instruction can be found here.


Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, and Firearm Safety

School Safety Crosswallk

Just as with physical health, mental health is equally important and should be looked after and cared for frequently. The factors that contribute to mental health are constantly changing, especially with the current health crisis. Parents and educators play a vital role in identifying changes in children's and teen's moods and behaviors. Helping to support youths that are struggling and seeking help is critical to supporting mental health. Preventing a struggle from turning into a crisis may prevent a child or teen from considering suicide or harming others. Mental health professionals agree that one effective way to reduce suicide is by preventing access to methods of harming oneself. Although there are several commonly used methods for suicide, 51% of all suicides in 2019 involved firearms.

Guns are deeply ingrained in American society. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives Americans the right to bear arms, and according to the Pew Research Center, nearly 30% of Americans own a gun. Preventing access to firearms can help make a difference to youths contemplating self-harm or harming others. A Guide for Parents Understanding Youth Mental Health and Preventing Unauthorized Access to Firearms is a tool that provides parents with information about mental health, how to recognize if their child needs help and what to do if the warning signs for suicide or other concerning behaviors are there. The guide also provides steps to support and promote safety at home.


OK2SAY

The current pandemic has impacted the way students are interacting with each other as they use their electronic devices to pass time in the era of physical isolation. Based upon the increased time and activity online, OK2SAY has noted a surge in the number of cyberbullying tips. Since some students are not physically present in school, educators may not be able to see any visual cues or have meaningful, connective conversations with a student.

OK2SAY has some advice for students who may be facing problems with cyberbullying.

  1. It is important to know that if you are a victim of cyberbullying, you are not alone, and help is available.
  2. Talk to a trusted adult. You deserve all the support you can get. There is no reason to suffer when you are the target of cyberbullying. It is always good to talk to a parent, but if you cannot - a school counselor or even your teacher will usually be able to help. It is also helpful to talk to friends when you are feeling upset by hurtful comments.
  3. Report your concerns to OK2SAY.
  4. Do not respond or retaliate. Two wrongs do not make a right.
  5. Block the person who is cyberbullying. 
  6. Save the evidence. Keep copies or screenshots of text messages, emails, and online conversations, including relevant dates and times. It is a good idea to print out copies.
  7. Set your privacy settings and limit your social interactions with people you know offline.
  8. Get help for bullying, harassment, threats, and other forms of misuse by reporting bullies to the website administrator. Use the “Report Cyberbullying” link ( https://cyberbullying.org/report ) for social media apps, gaming networks, and related companies.
  9. Treat others as you would like to be treated so pause before you post.
  10. If cyberbullying involves threats of violence, consider filing a report with law enforcement.

OK2SAY also has some advice for school officials regarding cyberbullying. 

  1. School officials must set firm expectations about social interactions online. The standards must be very clear and convey a firm message of disciplinary consequences for cruelty towards others – whether in grading (since it will be tied to their online education) or in administrative actions when school resumes.
  2. Teachers should keep a close eye on all online interactions. If there are any concerns, students should be encouraged to send screenshots or video recordings of any abusive or harmful behavior.
  3. Reinforce the importance of being respectful of others’ feelings and privacy online. 
  4. Tell your students that you understand the impulse to retaliate, but that in the long-term it is best to not get involved in that way.
  5. Encourage students to report problematic content to any social media or tech company that may be involved. Use the “Report Cyberbullying” link (https://cyberbullying.org/report) for social media apps, gaming networks, and related companies.
  6. And do all you can every single teaching day to promote positive peer interactions in all venues where online connections take place.

  7. OK2SAY - Stop the Silence. Help End the Violence - visit ok2say.com to learn more

Cyber Safety

As students spend more time online, there is an increased risk of child exploitation or that a student may be exposed to inappropriate content. The U.S. Department of Justice has published tips for teachers and families to help protect students online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) online safety program NetSmartz has free tip sheets and lesson plans for educators, parents, and guardians to teach K-12 students how to safely use the internet. NCMEC’s companion website NetSmartzKids.org is child-safe and contains videos, games, and activities to help younger students learn safe internet practices.


Child and Adolescent Mental Health as a Result of COVID

Covid PDF 3DBooklet

This document is a Michigan perspective of child and adolescent mental health as a result of the COVID pandemic. The resource was developed by the 31n Advisory Council in collaboration with Michigan Department of Education, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan. Please take time to read and share this document with your stakeholders. Read the full document here.