Andrew Rauch is the Facilities Manager for Epiphany School and the WFIS Representative on the OSPI School Safety Advisory Committee. Below Andrew shares his thoughts following the committee’s Annual Summit and Retreat held August 6 and 7, 2018.
The annual school safety summit and retreat was an incredibly informative couple days. We had legislators, risk managers, district safety staff and many other folks whose job it is to keep students in Washington State safe. Private schools were recognized for participating in the process. So many topics were covered. We reviewed some of our current and proposed state legislation regarding topics such as how we fund school safety in our state and the nature and meaning of emergency drills required for [public] schools. There was also a comprehensive review of what other states are doing with regard to school safety. There was a sense after that discussion that Washington State does do a very good job with providing resources through the online OSPI School Safety Center (http://www.k12.wa.us/Safetycenter/ ), and many other resources provided by Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs and others like local Educational Service Districts.
On the whole, we covered many topics around the prevention, mitigation, protection, response and recovery of safety issues in the K-12 school setting. One theme that should be carried forward is that faculty and school staff need to be allowed time for successful and meaningful training related to best practices and approved protocol. Time to bring new people up to speed and regularly refresh all staff on how to respond to safety issues is very important and often back-burnered. School safety should be a part of every school’s Professional Development calendar.
Mental health issues and harassment, intimidation and bullying are very important issues to grapple with at every school. Threat assessments and other methods need to be discussed so that they are integral to the prevention and mitigation phase when signs of trouble arise. An excellent point was made that many issues can be avoided if every adult in the school building takes the time to get to know the students. Often having open and trusting communication between the adults at school and the students is the very best way to identify and provide resources to those kids who really need it and may not have others in their lives that will provide the same caring support you may be able to. Have a wonderful school year.