School Safety Standards
The unfortunate reality is that school districts in Texas and across the country may be touched either directly or indirectly by any number of adverse events that can occur with little warning. Thanks to the efforts of State and local officials as well as Texas teachers, principals, and staff, our schools remain safe learning environments.
Unified School Safety Standards for Texas Schools were written to provide a set of criteria to help school districts develop a quality emergency management program. This framework is based within the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and aligns school district emergency operations with those of other governmental, private, and volunteer entities. These standards have been designed with enough flexibility to meet the unique needs and varied requirements of all schools in the state. Furthermore, the standards, although geared to the traditional school day, are also applicable to school safety for the entire calendar year. School safety is a 24 hour, 7 days a week responsibility, with implementation of these standards addressing after-hours, weekend, and summer activities.
This document was built through consensus which represents more than a year of collaboration and statewide coordination. The intent of Unified School Safety Standards is not to create additional mandates, but to present a list of standard practices to which schools, as well as first responders (i.e., law enforcement, fire, and EMS), can align themselves to provide for the best possible safety for their students, staff, and visitors. School safety must reflect the community, its capabilities, and the unique needs of local residents and students. It also must embrace state and federal mandates as well as expectations for safe and secure schools. Therefore, these standards represent a baseline tool for strategic planning and improvement for school districts statewide.
The standards are defined by the US Department of Education within the following four phases of emergency management:
- Mitigation/Prevention addresses what schools and districts can do to reduce or eliminate risk to life and property;
- Preparedness focuses on the process of planning for the worst-case scenario;
- Response is devoted to the steps to take during a crisis or emergency; and
- Recovery deals with how to restore the learning and teaching environment after an event.
Each standard in this document begins with, The school district should The word should makes each standard a recommendation, rather than a mandate. This wording is necessary because the standards have yet to be put into law. Each standard is supported by at least one reference from which it is derived. These references are founded in either already enacted legal codes, within state and federal directives, as well as within best practices.
This document also contains a glossary in which the definitions represent the context found within each standard. Some definitions are examples of products or actions; others define the word as emergency management principles and terminology.
Best and Promising Practices
A best practice is a technique or action through either experience or research, which has consistently proven to lead to a specific positive outcome. The next step in the Unified School Safety Standards is to collaborate with individuals across Texas to create a document which identifies and outlines best practices.
The Texas Unified School Safety Standards: Best Practices can now be submitted via the on-line form provided below. Prior to submitting any best practices, please review the current best practices provided during the first two best practices meetings. Please provide any best practices your school currently uses or you have found for an individual standard. Submitted best practices will be reviewed collectively during a best practices meeting (TBD).
To review the Best Practices and provide comments and suggestions, click here.