Alert Solutions Blog

School Safety Bans You’ll Have to Read to Believe

Posted by Tara Gibson on Mon, Feb 25, 2019 @ 10:02 AM

K-12 schools and districts across the country do everything they can to keep students, teachers, and administrators safe. With the frightening rise of violence in schools over the past few years, it’s no surprise that school safety is a key topic for educators.

Parents and students should both be aware of what you can and cannot bring onto school property. Depending on the area you live in, these are subject to change. Some of the most common school safety bans include: 

  • Guns & Weapons
    This school safety ban speaks for itself. No school wants any potentially harmful weapons brought onto school campuses, as they can cause injury or death to students, faculty, and others in the vicinity of the school.
    Drug Free School Zone
  • Drugs & Alcohol
    Drugs and alcohol are illegal substances that are never allowed on school premises.

  • Bullying & Cyberbullying
    Bullying in any form is always a school safety concern. Bullying and cyberbullying can have detrimental effects on a student’s well-being and is a commonly battled issue in many K-12 school districts.

  • Gang Affiliation & Violence
    Another common school safety ban is the affiliation to any gangs in the area. Gang affiliation often relates to violence, which is always prohibited in schools.

Communicating these school safety bans is easy to do with an effective school notification system. Sharing a list of the banned items along with a brief explanation to parents keeps them informed and engaged with their child’s education. A commonly discussed topic covered by Alert Solutions is the importance of parental involvement, as it is shown to improve student performance, student behavior, and reduce bullying incidents.

Most schools have effective bans in place related to school safety, but others have some interesting school bans that raise some questions, and certainly some eyebrows.

6 Interesting School Safety Bans

  • Bottled Water
    Some of you may remember the flipping water bottles craze that swept the nation back in 2016. Many students were flipping water bottles throughout classes which resulted in bottle flipping bans, and at least 2 schools completely banned plastic water bottles as they caused so many distractions.

  • The Dictionary
    Yes, believe it or not, the dictionary was banned. This happened in a school in California when a parent complained the book contains references to inappropriate behaviors. According to Business Insider, “the ban didn't last long — days later, teachers and administrators voted to bring the dictionaries back into the classrooms. As a compromise, they sent students home with permission slips so objecting parents could opt for their students to use to a different dictionary.”

  • High Fives, Tag, Holding Hands and Hugs
    In some K-12 schools across the country, hugs were deemed an inappropriate form of touching and a bill was passed in Tennessee claiming hand-holding was a gateway to sexual activity, which caused school wide bans of both. Tag and high fives were also considered to be dangerous, which led to schools bans as well.

  • Yoga Pants
    Some schools consider yoga pants to be too revealing, and an apparent distraction, so they are steadily being banned from dress codes in many schools. School-aged girls are opting to wear yoga pants as the new comfortable replacement to sweatpants. According to TeachHub, “a school in Rockport, MA, sent home 20 female students when they showed up in the banned apparel.”

  • Red Ink
    This school ban applies more to teachers than students. Business Insider shares “the sight of red ink became so jarring that several schools in England banned teachers from using it in the 2000s. Many of them hoped that by forcing teachers to make their corrections in other colors, it would soften the stigma of making a mistake.” Red ink was considered to be de-motivating and have negative connotations.

  • Ugg Boots
    When cell-phones were widely banned in many schools, students would hide them inside their Ugg boots to sneak them into classes. This led to a Pennsylvania school banning Ugg boots on campus to prevent students from using them to secretly store their phone.

Although some of the above interesting school safety bans are slightly ridiculous, schools take the well being of their students very seriously.

At Alert Solutions, school safety is extremely important. We work with many schools that use our SwiftK12 school notification platform for school safety purposes. An emergency can happen at any time without warning, which is why having a reliable way to communicate is key. If there is a danger on school grounds, administrators are able to alert parents, students, and faculty quickly with ease using their preferred communication method.

For more school safety tips, download our guide below.

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Topics: school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, emergency preparedness, emergency response

Addressing School Safety Threats: 4 Things Your K-12 School Can Do

Posted by Philip Young on Tue, Jan 22, 2019 @ 08:01 AM

As educators, your main concern is the well-being and safety of your students.

There has been a shocking rise in school shootings over the past few years, with 2018 being the deadliest year so far. BBC News reports that in 2018 a startling 113 people have been killed or injured in school shootings in the United States.  BBC also states, “with many parts of the US having about 180 school days per year, it means, on average, a shooting once every eight school days.” With the well-known Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting killing 17, and the Santa Fe High School shooting in Texas killing 10, the number of deaths among students is notably higher on average for 2018.

School Safety Surveillance

School safety concerns like cybersecurity threats have also been on the rise. Unfortunately, the networks supporting K-12 school districts are typically not the strongest. According to Barkly, “schools are particularly susceptible to malware attacks for a number of reasons. For one, schools haven’t historically had to make cybersecurity a high priority, and they don’t always have a great deal of experience in fending off attacks.”

Budget constraints and easy Wi-Fi accessibility also leave hackers an easy entrance into school district networks. EdScoop states that since 2016, more than 350 incidents have occurred. At least one of those incidents resulted in threats of violence against children in several K-12 school districts.

Although it is extremely difficult to predict when and how a school safety threat will present itself, there are things that schools can do to help address these risks.

4 School Safety Tips for K-12 Schools

  1. Implement a Reliable School Notification System
    When disaster strikes, you have to be able to notify your school community quickly. Implementing a school notification system backed by a secure network is a great way to ensure teachers, parents, students, and administrators can be contacted immediately in the event of a school safety threat such as an active shooter or cyber breach. Our SwiftK12 notification system enables administrators to reliably reach hundreds or even thousands of student families within minutes.
  1. Monitor Social Media
    According to EdScoop, many districts are opting to monitor student behavior through social media. This software alerts educators when students write certain words, essentially painting a picture of the student’s well-being. This is helpful for incidents on and off campus. EdScoop provides the following example; “if students express the desire to harm themselves, these individuals can be contacted by trained staff who know the appropriate way to intervene.” Although this tool is helpful, and social media is often viewed by the public, schools are encouraged to use discretion.
  1. Cyber Security Updates
    As mentioned above, school districts are often targeted by hackers because they tend to have weaker networks. There are things school administrators can do to prevent this from happening. Consider the following school safety cybersecurity tips from EdScoop:
    1. Educate staff, parents, and students on the dangers of cybersecurity threats
    2. Implement strong password policies
    3. Always make sure school software is up-to-date
    4. Stay current on trends in cybersecurity

  2. On-Campus Surveillance
    Surveillance technology on school campuses gives administrators the ability to look out for suspicious behaviors and efficiently react to dangerous situations. According to Gizmodo, “schools are spending millions to outfit their campuses with some of the most advanced surveillance technology available.” With school safety being the priority, many schools are pushing to install cameras in hallways and other technologies like anonymous tip software to prevent dangerous incidents from occurring.

With impending threats on the rise for K-12 schools across the United States, preparedness is key. That’s why it’s so important to implement and share some kind of school safety plan with your school community, using the above tips as a guide.

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Topics: school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, emergency preparedness, emergency response, emergency management

Not Just For Emergencies, School Notification Systems Also Spread Good News

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Jan 30, 2018 @ 14:01 PM

As parents and K-12 school administrators become increasingly concerned about school security, the need for emergency response technology is skyrocketing.

The demand for digital school notification systems is partly driven by the need to quickly notify parents during security threats. What many are starting to appreciate, however, is that these systems can also have a positive purpose when used in K-12 school settings.

School notification systems can foster parent engagement and create a better sense of school community by notifying parents, students and staff members of school events, news items, student achievements and schedule changes that may impact their daily lives.

Across industries, the emergency response market is slated to jump from the $50.4 billion logged in 2012 to $131.6 billion by 2019, reports researcher Frost & Sullivan. And K-12 schools are a prime segment within that market. During the 2013-2014 school year 82 percent of U.S. schools were already using a school notification system, and most seek improvements.

Some 58 percent of authorities surveyed at U.S. K-12 schools last year expressed interest in buying or upgrading emergency notification and alert systems, up from 50 percent in 2014. The features of greatest interest? Mobile apps (targeted by 29 percent of respondents) and text alerts (targeted by 28 percent).

So what are some non-emergency uses for a school notification system? Consider how sharing the following information could improve parent engagement at your k-12 school:

1. Parent Achievements - Parents want to hear that your K-12 school is continually working toward improvements. Make sure you share the good news if staff members or students win awards, achieve high test scores, have perfect attendance, create something admirable or do anything else worthy of praise. You really can’t overshare in this department.K-12-2.jpg

2. Sports Outcomes - Drum up support for students’ upcoming matches, then help them celebrate the outcomes by providing summaries and announcements of completed games. You can also recognize the achievements of key players and coaches.

3. Event Announcements - Parents like to know the nature of the school events their children are attending so they can discuss them with their kids later. And when events such as pep rallies, Veterans Day observances and graduation ceremonies are open to the public, a school notification system can boost attendance by sharing details and sending reminders.

4. Volunteer Recruitment - Let parents know when you’re in dire need of their presence for pulling off school programs and events, and what exactly the volunteer gigs will require.

5. Fundraiser Info - Drive attendance and participation by explaining what you’re trying to accomplish and reminding parents of deadlines.

6. Weather-Related Issues - When the weather affects school schedules, parents, students and staff members need to know ASAP pending new child care or pick-up arrangements. School notification systems make school closure announcements quick and easy.

Though school security is always a primary concern, school notification systems can do so much more than alert parents to emergency situations.

Talk to Alert Solutions about how such k-12 communication tools could boost transparency and improve parent engagement within your school community.

Alert Solutions' School Notification Systems

Topics: school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent engagement, parent communication, emergency response

4 School Safety Tips to Help Avoid Active Shooter Situations in K-12 Schools

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Nov 28, 2017 @ 10:11 AM

In the past 250 years there have been an estimated 370 school shootings in this country – causing the United States to have a higher rate of school shootings than any other country.

According to recent research conducted by John Jay College, roughly 85% of these school shooters had a history of being bullied by classmates. These are some startling statistics.

K-12 schools should have a school safety plan for these types of violent incidents and take a proactive approach in active shooter situations.

By following a few of the school safety tips shared below, k-12 schools can be better prepared and help keep teachers, students and staff member safe.emergencypreparedness-resized-600.png

1. Implement a ‘Zero Tolerance’ Policy for Weapons, Alcohol and Illegal Drugs
Research is torn on this approach, but k-12 schools that use ‘restorative justice’ instead of school suspensions are seeing positive results with students.

2. Include an Active Shooter Response Procedure to Your Schools’ Emergency Preparedness Plan
School emergency preparedness plans should address procedures related to active shooter response including lockdowns, evacuations, parent-student reunification, and sending emergency alerts to parents, the media and the school community.

3. Practice Your School’s Safety Plan with Local Emergency Responders
Train school administrators, teachers, and support staff on school violence prevention, school safety and school threat assessment. Emergency responders are strongly encouraged to practice the rapid response to active shooter techniques as well.  Schools should make their schools and school buses available after-hours and on weekends so public safety officials can practice responding to active shooter situations in these settings.

4. Have a Way to Communicate with Parents and Emergency Responders
School administrators know that an emergency situation could occur at any time. No matter what the instance is, it is imperative to ensure your emergency alerts are being sent to student families and staff quickly and reliably. It’s vital for school safety. School notification systems help streamline parent communication across multiple channels: voice, email, SMS text, and social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. 

What is your school doing to avoid active shooter situations? Share your thoughts on our blog!

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Topics: school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, emergency preparedness, emergency response, emergency management

Improving School Safety - 4 Components of a Successful Emergency Preparedness Plan

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Aug 08, 2017 @ 16:08 PM

K-12 schools across North America are faced with growing and ongoing threats, including school violencedrugs, bullying, and natural disasters.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 828,000 students each year are victims of non-fatal victimization while on school property. This statistic is startling and demonstrates the importance of taking school safety seriously.

The real question is - is your k-12 school prepared? To help, we’ve compiled 4 components of a successful emergency preparedness or school safety plan:safetyinschool.jpg

1. Form a Team
In an emergency, you need to respond quickly. Ensure that every school administrator, parent, teacher and staff member on your team knows what their role is in the event of an emergency.

2. Define and Share Your School Safety Plan
Create an emergency preparedness plan that clearly states what behaviors are acceptable or not acceptable at your school. Train your school’s staff on the school safety plan, and promote that plan to parents.

3. Improve Student Relationships
The best way to prevent bullying, violence, drugs and more is to get students involved. When students feel invisible, they will go to any limit to get attention – good or bad. When your students feel that they’re playing an active role in school safety, they will response positively. For example, click here to read about a new strategy using peer mediation to prevent school bullying.

4. Implement a School Notification System
Critical situations like a school lockdown, student health emergency or unexpected school closure can happen at any time. Having a seamless way to communicate with parents, students and staff members during these events can become vital…and sometimes lifesaving. School notification systems help streamline communication across multiple channels: voice, email, SMS text, and social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. 

Back-to-school doesn't need to mean back-to-worrying. Implement these 4 tips and start improving school safety today!

Download Alert Solutions'  Emergency Preparedness Guide

Topics: school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, emergency preparedness, emergency response

Why a School Notification System is Vital to Your Parent Communication Strategy

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 @ 15:03 PM

Critical situations like a school lockdown, student health emergency or unexpected school closure can happen at any time. Having a seamless way to communicate with parents, students and staff members during these events can become vital…and sometimes lifesaving.

Enter a school notification system.

School notification systems help streamline communication across multiple channels: voice, email, SMS text, and social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. Don’t forget about the Parent Portal!

Parents are eager to stay attuned to the many facets of their child’s life, especially when it comes to their education.

School notification systems provide a convenient and effective way to get the word our quickly and keep parents in the know on everything – from ordinary to urgent.teacherparents-2.jpg

Common uses include:

Plus, school notification systems enable administrators to send the same message to thousands of people at once – a capability that helps prevent rumors from spreading and minimizes confusion during emergency situations.

Providing accurate and timely information through a school notification system should be part of every school’s communication strategy. It’s simply good practice.

Remember! The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set specific guidelines that schools must follow before sending out a message. To learn more, download our Compliance Guide.

TCPA Compliance Guide Download Now.

Topics: attendance, school notifications, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent communication, emergency response

K-12 Schools Are Facing New Security Concerns – 5 Tips to Improve School Safety

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Sep 20, 2016 @ 12:09 PM

Did you know there have been 74 school shootings since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre? That’s 74 school shootings in just 4 years!

Here are some other statistics from a 2015 survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control:

  • 8% reported being in a physical fight on school property in the 12 months before the survey.
  • 5% reported being bullied electronically during the 12 months before the survey.
  • 2% reported being bullied on school property.
  • 1% reported carrying a weapon on school property on one or more days in the 30 days before the survey.

In less than a generation, k-12 schools have entered a complex world of new security concerns. The focus has switched from routine fire drills to creating school lockdown procedures to prevent unwanted intruders.

So how can k-12 school administrators best protect students and staff, when their expertise is curriculum, not security? While this may be a starting point, here are a few school safety tips:

1. Zero-Tolerance
Have a zero-tolerance policy for the presence of weapons, alcohol and illegal drugs.

2. Strict Attendance
Deny students permission to leave school for any non-school related activities during the school day.

3. ID Systemclearbackpack.jpg
Create a positive identification system requiring ID badges for administrators, teachers, students and visitors.

4. Dress Code
Enforce a dress code policy banning any form of gang-related clothing or require students wear clear backpacks.

5. Sharing System
Create a system between your school and law enforcement for sharing information about at-risk youth.

What are you doing at your school to promote school safety? Share your thoughts on our blog!

Download Alert Solutions'  Emergency Preparedness Guide

Topics: bullying, school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, emergency preparedness, emergency response

Emergency Notification Systems for K-12 Schools - What You Need to Know

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Jul 19, 2016 @ 10:07 AM

The ability to communicate quickly is essential during an emergency. In the midst of confusion and chaos, parents, staff and school community members need answers.

An emergency notification system can provide important information to a large number of people in a short amount of time.  Here are two more reasons why an emergency notification system is crucial for every school:schoolsafety.jpg

  • Nearly 90% of k-12 schools reported a school safety incident in the last year and 31% were forced to implement a school lockdown.
  • 45% of k-12 schools cite good parent communication as either the first or second best advantage when it comes to handling emergencies.

When reviewing an emergency notification system that will be responsible for protecting your k-12 school, be on the lookout for these core features:

1. Scalability and Security
How long does it take the emergency notification system to securely and reliably send thousands of messages? You should be able to reach hundreds of thousand so people within minutes. If not, you risk a disconnected and uniformed school community during crisis situations.

2. Mobile App
During emergency situations, school administrators aren’t necessarily sitting in front of their computer. They need the ability to send an emergency alert on-the-go. Having a mobile app they can access via their smart phone is a great way to ensure school administrators can effectively communicate with parents anytime, anywhere.

3. Multiple Communication Channels
The National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) recently surveyed community members from 50 districts in 22 states to learn the school communication preferences of parents. The top 3 answers were email, voice and an online parent portal.  Having a multi-channel school notification system ensures you’re communicating with parents, staff and community members in a way they prefer.

Bonus! Abiding by parent communication preferences also ensures your k-12 school is compliant with the TCPA.

Download Alert Solutions'  Emergency Preparedness Guide

Topics: school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, emergency preparedness, emergency response

4 Tips for Creating an Effective School Lockdown Procedure

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Apr 05, 2016 @ 10:04 AM

Everyone can agree a safe learning environment for students is a top priority for parents and school administrators. Ensuring every k-12 school is safe relies on proper planning, administrative enforcement and student compliance.

K-12 schools and public safety officials are always re-evaluating their emergency school lockdown procedures.  There is no ‘one size fits all’ procedure that will fit every school.  Each school is different in size, design, and of course, local law enforcement response capabilities.

To help give school administrators direction, we’ve compiled these 4 tips for creating an effective school lockdown procedure:safetyinschool.jpg

1. Don’t only focus on active shooter situations.
While it beneficial to keep things simple in school emergency planning, we have found that k-12 schools that only have one protocol based on active shooter situations have a high fail rate. This is because school administrators are afraid to overreact in a situation they feel is too “minor” to warrant a school lockdown. 

2. All staff should be issued keys and participate in safety drills.
It is important to give staff members the tools they need to keep the building secure throughout the school day.  Staff should also be given ample practice in physically performing lockdown procedures before a crisis. 

3. Doors should be locked during instructional time and when the door is not actively being used.
Some schools require teachers to teach with their doors locked as a preventive measure. Aside from the safety benefits, it also creates an emphasis on timeliness and discipline among students. 

4. Have a way to easily communicate with parents and community members.
During an emergency situation like a school lockdown, school administrators need to have open communication with parents, students and staff in order to minimize miscommunication and prevent rumors. Having an effective communication plan is vital. 

Most schools utilize an automated school notification system within their emergency response plans.  This allows the school to notify parents of the situation via their preferred communication method of text, email or voice. >> Example <<

Download our Emergency Preparedness Guide for more tips and tricks!

Download Alert Solutions'  Emergency Preparedness Guide

Topics: school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, emergency preparedness, emergency response

Implementing an Emergency Response Plan in K-12 Schools

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Feb 23, 2016 @ 11:02 AM

Emergency response plans in K-12 schools have evolved over the years to include not only intentional disasters like terrorism, but also unintentional public health emergencies such as natural disasters.

Children spend as much as 70-80% of their waking hours away from their parents in school. K-12 schools have a vital role in assuring that students are cared for and proper interventions are delivered in the event of an emergency.

Here are 5 steps K-12 school administrators should take to ensure they create and implement an effective emergency response plan:emergencyprepschool.jpg

Step 1 – Perform a Needs Assessment.
Schools should conduct surveys to evaluate the opinions and needs of their school as perceived by school staff.

Step 2 – Conduct a Site Survey of Every School.
Knowledgeable members of the planning team should conduct a careful walkthrough of each school to identify any obstacles to the emergency response plan as well as evaluate lockdown and sheltering-in sites.

Step 3 – Build out the Emergency Response Plan.
Using the information obtained from the needs assessment and site surveys, the team should have enough data to create the emergency response plan.

Remember: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, all school-based emergency response plans should be based on the 4 phases of emergency management:  Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery.

Step 4 – Create an Emergency Response Handbook.
Each school should have a school-specific emergency handbook. Information included in the emergency response handbook should include:

- Contact numbers for town emergency responders and local support resources.
- Protocols for evacuation, lockdown, and sheltering-in-place.
- A map of individual school buildings.

Step 5 – Inform Parents of the Emergency Response Plan.
Communication remains the foundation of effective disaster response. It helps reduce miscommunication and keeps parents informed. 
 
- Every school must develop a means of rapid communication with parents. Mass notification systems, like Alert Solutions, can reach hundreds and thousands of parents quickly and are extremely valuable.
 
- Schools should house multiple contact methods for parents, including email address and phone numbers. With Alert Solutions Parent Portal, schools can gain access to an unlimited number of contact points.

Download Alert Solutions'  Emergency Preparedness Guide

Topics: school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, emergency preparedness, emergency response

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