Emergency Planning and Crisis Response
Schools need to have in place crisis response plans which include two types of procedures. These include procedures for (1) responding to escalating student behavior that keeps students and staff safe, restores an environment conducive to learning, and links the child to qualified community mental heath care providers, if appropriate and (2) for natural disasters, suicides, major accidents and deliberate acts of violence including terrorism. An effective crisis plan has four elements (a) mitigation and prevention (b) preparedness, (c) response and (d) recovery (U.S. DOE, 2004). Effective plans must include (a) structured procedures for each type of crisis, (b) a trained in-school team, (c) effective, efficient and foolproof ways to communicate among staff and connect with needed emergency and mental health care staff and families, (d) and plans for community-wide post-crisis treatment to reduce the likelihood of any lasting psychological or other effects on children, families and staff (Osher, Dwyer & Jackson, 2004).
Crisis response plans are not individual student plans, but rather systemic responses to different types of threats to safety. However, when an individual student’s behavior support plan requires a system response for behaviors that involve a safety concern, procedures outlined in the crisis response plan are linked to the individual plan.
We have proposed to work collaboratively with each school district to review the existing crisis response plans for each participating school in order to evaluate whether it is in accordance with their district policy and current knowledge and make recommendations for enhancing any procedures, if necessary.
The ability to keep students, families and staff safe is fundamental to creating safe and effective school communities that are conducive to learning. Students who exhibit behaviors that present a safety concern to self or others are at high risk for suspension, expulsion and out placement. Preventing, preparing for and responding to all forms of safety concerns should be one of the highest priorities in a system of care and education.