Each day we are entrusted with the safety of nearly 1.8
million students and hundreds of thousands of staff members who come through
our doors. School safety is our top priority and responsibility. We are
heartbroken for the students, educators and communities who have been impacted
by acts of violence on school grounds, and I know you feel the same. We must
take this time to review our own school safety procedures and plans and ensure
our students and staff members are protected.
I am aware that numerous discussions surrounding school safety
have occurred over the last several weeks, within your leadership teams and at
RESA board of control meetings. I urge you to continue to reach out to local
law enforcement, emergency management agencies, and my staff at GaDOE (Dr.
Garry McGiboney - firstname.lastname@example.org,
Cheryl Benefield - email@example.com
and Jeff Hodges - firstname.lastname@example.org)
to gain their guidance, expertise, and support.
Recent incidents should serve as a reminder to all of us to
establish, update, and practice school safety protocols and procedures.
Your local emergency management experts can assist you in the development and
implementation of your safe school plan. Additionally, the Georgia
Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) can review your safe school plan.
Considering recent events, I request that you take this
opportunity to examine your preparedness in the following areas.
- Facilities. Ensure facilities are
secure and evaluate processes and procedures to ensure their security. Make
sure security is prioritized in the design and construction of new
facilities within your district.
- Visitors and suspicious
your processes and procedures for handling visitors. Deliver training for
educators, staff, and even students to report suspicious activities or
incidents with students or peers that could quickly escalate and consider
establishing and practicing front office safety procedures.
- Communication. Be sure protocols and
processes are in place to clearly communicate with local emergency
responders, parents and the community about emergency situations. Provide
timely, clear, and accurate information and deliver them though different
mediums (text alerts, emails, phone calls, or local media).
- Student Support Teams. Be sure that counselors,
social workers, and other support staff members participate in the
development of your safe school plan and are
aware of school safety processes and have clear lines of communication
with school leaders at all times.
- Partnerships. Beyond engaging local
emergency responders, form strong partnerships and lines of communication
with local agencies and organizations that can provide support and
resources to enhance safety and security; for example, a local chapter of
the American Red Cross may be able to provide training.
- School Climate. Continue to examine and
have deep conversations around school climate data such as suspensions,
office referrals, and attendance. Initiatives like Positive
Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
provide support for ensuring a positive learning environment in our
schools and classrooms. This is important because we know from research
that one of the most effective school safety strategies is creating a
school climate where students and staff members feel engaged and
- State Supports. In addition to supporting
PBIS, the Department offers Youth Mental Health First Aid training to
school, safety assessments in partnership with GEMA, and a 24/7 School
Safety Hotline -- 1-877-SAY-STOP. Additionally, we co-sponsor
the annual Safe Schools Conference with GEMA and the United States
Attorney’s Office of Middle Georgia – this year’s conference is scheduled
for June 26 to 28. This year’s Georgia Education
Leadership Institute (GELI) will provide a pre-conference session
dedicated to school safety with experts from GEMA sharing information
about active shooter response and emergency planning. GELI will take place
from September 16-18. On the Department’s School
Safety webpage you will find numerous resources for schools pertaining
directly to school safety. Also, follow our Twitter account dedicated
to sharing school safety resources and information at @GaDOESafeSchool.
- Drills. In addition to fire and
tornado drills, practice other drills such as intruder alerts. GEMA’s
School Safety Training provides training in several areas related to
emergency drills and situations.
Even though recent events certainly raise the issue to the
forefront of public dialogue and discussion, school safety must continue to be
an ongoing process and priority for us.
I deeply appreciate your work every day in support of our
students and educators.
State School Superintendent