Schools should be a safe haven for both children and school employees. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration two million employees in the United States become the victims of workplace violence each year. No school is immune to these types of incidents, therefore all school employees should receive regular workplace safety training on what constitutes a security risk and how to report problems.
Have a policy and a plan
Protecting employees starts with preparing.
- Develop a school workplace violence policy that includes dealing with students who become violent or threaten other students and school staff. Communicating this policy with all parents/guardians each year is vital.
- Train all staff regularly. Employees must know their rights and responsibilities when dealing with issues such as bullying, threats, violent acts and worst-case scenarios like school shooters.
- Evaluate the building for physical security risks like unsecured doors, poorly lit areas and unsecured storage areas.
- Employees that have extensive contact with the public, work in community settings, or during late night/early morning hours have additional exposure to workplace violence. Be sure your plan includes protection for bus drivers, coaches transporting athletes to and from late night games, food service and janitorial employees.
Pay attention and know the warning signs that a student may be experiencing problems.
- Socially withdrawing.
- Falling grades.
- Where the students hang out on school property, i.e. blind spots, and stairwells.
- Reports of bullying/cyber bullying among students. Following up on these reports is critical.
- Equip your employees with the knowledge of how to respond to threats or abuse.
- Get to know the parents/guardians whenever possible.
- Develop a close relationship with local law enforcement and fire department. Include these resources in your training exercises.
A proactive and slightly aggressive approach is necessary to take control of your employees’ safety. Be sure to check out the school safety tutorial on WorkSAFE Center for additional complimentary resources.