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Building a Strong Foundation: Enhancing School Safety with Effective Teams

Kelly Moore
August 10, 2023

Beginning in June and through July, we have been talking mostly about process improvements and what needs to be done to set yourself up for success in the upcoming school year. So as we enter August, now is the time to make sure you are actually ready and everything you need to be successful has been addressed.

As many of you are already back in session if you have not completed your planning just yet, don’t fret, but you need to get it done. With the exception of a few minor details needed to be completed, you should have your entire school safety plan and schedule ready to go. Now we will need to start looking at the implementation and execution of your plan. Fundamentally, besides conducting all of the necessary back-to-school training that is required, the convening of all your safety teams and threat/behavioral assessment teams is next on the list of your priorities. These two teams will be integral in the success of your whole safety program for this year and well into the future. For it is within these two teams that you will look to complete at least 90% of the tasks you are required to complete to keep your school safe. This is where you will put a great deal of your time and effort to create the safety culture that you should be seeking. So let’s remind ourselves of who we should be bringing to these teams and what those teams should look like:

First the safety teams:

  • The District Level Team is responsible for establishing the standards, policies, procedures, guidelines, and training requirements for all of the district’s safety teams.

    • Chair/Lead: Director of school safety, school safety coordinator, assistant superintendent

    • Members: The chairs from each school building, the communications director

    • Support: School psychologist, law enforcement, fire department, emergency medical services (maybe the same as the fire department in your area), outside mental health partners, district attorney victim witness advocate, facilities, and transportation. These positions should be persons who have managerial experience and authority (all disciplines).

  • The Building Level Teams - Each building and campus should have a safety team that is responsible for implementing the standards and expectations developed by the District Level Team.

    • Chair/Lead: Principal or assistant principal
      Note: The principal can designate whomever they wish to run the day-to-day operations of the safety team, but, by the nature of their position, they cannot delegate the responsibility of the overall competency of the safety team to someone else.

    • Members: Assistant principals, deans, counselors, lead teachers, those who show interest and a propensity for school safety and security, and interested parent or parent groups, SRO, and other first responders

    • Support: Facilities, transportation, food services, community partners, mental health support, district-level administration, director of school safety or school safety coordinator, etc.

Now the Threat and Behavioral Assessment Intervention Team (TBAIT):

  • The District Level Team is responsible for establishing the standards, policies, procedures, guidelines, and training requirements for all of the district’s TBAIT teams.
     
    • Chair/Lead: Director of school safety, school safety coordinator, or appropriate assistant superintendent

    • Member: Building level chairs, counselors, psychologists, law enforcement (with appropriate training), mental health practitioners, etc.

    • Support: Community mental health partners, juvenile justice partners, and law enforcement experts

  • Building Level Teams are responsible for implementing what the district-level team has developed. Typically, each school has a core TBAIT team of 3 or 4 full-time staff members who are responsible for the integrity of all the assessments conducted within their schools. If needed, they will bring in additional members trained in TBAIT to address specific issues and/or complex cases.

    • Chair/Lead: Principal or assistant principal
      Note: The principal can designate whomever they wish to run the day-to-day operations of the safety team, but, by the nature of their position, they cannot delegate the responsibility of the overall competency of the safety team to someone else.

    • Members: Counselors, SROs, assistant principals, school psychologists, lead teachers, mental health practitioners, etc.

    • Support: Law enforcement experts, district-level team members, community partners, etc.

If you have been following along with our blogs and podcasts since the beginning (January 2023), then you have heard me say this several times. I am a retired sheriff’s commander from California with more than 34 years of experience in the public safety sector. After I retired from the Sheriff’s Office, I began working for a local school district as their School Safety Coordinator. It didn’t take long for me to realize that in that capacity, I had the opportunity to be the most proactive in the safety and security of our community than I had ever been before. I also likely had the most significant impact on the community's safety.  Why do I say this? Because if I can not only make our schools safer but also teach them about safety, the reach of those efforts touch every part of our community.  When our communities see what we are doing to protect their students, they provide better support to us. However, the converse is also true.

Don’t Forget:

  • Back-to-school training
  • Security and safety assessments (gap analysis)
  • Drills and tabletop exercises
  • Process improvement
  • Safety and TBAIT team meetings

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