Alert Solutions Blog

Are Active Shooter Drills Going Too Far? 8 Active Shooter Drill Best Practices

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, May 16, 2019 @ 08:05 AM

There have a been a shocking number of active shooter incidents across the United States over the last few years, resulting in mass injuries and deaths, many in K-12 schools. It’s heartbreaking to turn on your television or radio to hear of another horrifying incident and young lives lost. School safety and security measures are constantly adapting and growing around the premise of active shooters on a campus. It’s extremely important to continue to perfect an emergency response plan by running active shooter drills, testing your emergency alert system, and educating students and staff on what to do in the case of an active shooter. But how far is too far?

School Security Guard

In Indiana a few teachers came forward to report they were left with welts, bruises, and abrasions after an active shooter drill back in January 2019. They anonymously told IndyStar that for the training teachers were asked by law enforcement “to kneel down against a classroom wall, before being shot across their backs with airsoft guns.” Although all active shooter drills are to educate and inform students and faculty of what to do in an emergency situation involving a shooter, being shot at close range for practice seems to push the limits of some educators. One teacher said, “They told us, ‘This is what happens if you just cower and do nothing.’ They shot all of us across our backs. I was hit four times. It hurt so bad”.

8 Active Shooter Drill Best Practices

Alice Training Institute released a list of best practices for active shooter drills in collaboration with NASP (National Association of School Psychologists) and NASRO (National Association of School Resource Officers). 

  1. Create a School Safety Team
    Alice Training Institute recommends each K-12 school should create school safety teams made up of an administrator; school mental health professional; school nurse; teachers; security personnel; parents; and students. There should be somebody on this safety team that takes charge in coordinating all school safety efforts, including school safety drills. The leader should also be clear in communicating responsibilities to those on the school safety teams, and identify appropriate emergency preparedness activities for the school.

  2. Conduct an Assessment of the School Community
    It’s important for the school safety teams to identify the types of crises that may occur, and what the current school culture and climate is like. For example, this would include determining if there are high rates of bullying incidents in your K-12 school. Assessing the policies in place for active shooter drills and considering if there should be any additional policies added is also key.
  1. Implement a Cost-Benefit Analysis
    Your school’s cost-benefit analysis should consider financial costs in relation to the likelihood of a particular crisis, and the current knowledge and identified needs of staff & faculty. The cost-benefit analysis should also identify resources, activities, or preparedness trainings that must be replaced or postponed to engage in an active shooter drill.

  2. Tailor Active Shooter Drills to the Context of the School Environment
    Your active shooter drills should take into consideration the following - the primary goal of the drill; the age of students, cognitive and developmental levels of awareness of students; students with physical, sensory, or other disabilities who may require unique instructions; the trust and comfort among staff; optimal timing of the active shooter drill; relationships with law enforcement; and lastly the layout of the school.

  3. Create a Plan of Progression
    Your K-12 school should have a plan of progression that identifies specific goals and objectives for the active shooter drill as well as a timeline and metrics to help determine how the drills are performing, and whether more complex exercises are needed.

  4. Prepare for Logistics of the Active Shooter Drill
    It’s important to keep in mind several factors when running active shooter drills such as students or staff who have experienced previous traumatic events. These individuals may want to be excused during a drill, but must have parental consent to do so. Alice Training Institute also recommends having school mental health professionals available to help.

  5. Develop a Communications Plan
    Having an effective communications plan is important before, during, and after an active shooter drill. It’s important to keep parents, guardians, and the school community informed of when drills are planned. This is easy to do with your school notification platform.

  6. Establish a Long-Term Follow Up Plan
    Schools should establish a long-term follow up plan to support sustainability that considers the following – what additional training is required; how the drill integrates with other school safety efforts; how current and previous training and knowledge can be maintained; and when/ how often a follow-up should be conducted.

For more in depth steps for conducting an active shooter drill at your K-12 school, please see the Alice Training Institute ‘Best Practice Considerations for Schools in Active Shooter and Other Armed Assailant Drills’ report.

One of the important points in active shooter drill best practices includes having a communication plan. At Alert Solutions we help many K-12 schools with their emergency response efforts by providing an award-winning school notification system, SwiftK12.  

SwiftK12 enables administrators to reliably reach hundreds or even thousands of student families within minutes. In the case of an active shooter situation, seconds count.

Interested in learning more? Download our brochure today.

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: student health, school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent communication

Teacher Strikes: The Impact on Students & K-12 School Security

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, May 14, 2019 @ 10:05 AM

In early 2019, the United States saw multiple large-scale teacher strikes in California, Colorado, West Virginia, and more. With large groups of teachers picketing outside K-12 schools, many students were either not showing up to learn, or were simply watched in auditoriums and gymnasiums within school grounds.

Teacher Strikes: The Impact on Students & K-12 School Security

Although teachers across the country were striking for the future of public education, there were some negative impacts on school security and student’s learning opportunities. When there are no teachers, there is no teaching.

Teacher Strike

EdWeek published an article showing how principals handled the teacher strikes, and one of the key takeaways was closing schools if possible, during a teacher strike. During the strike in LA, some “encountered expletives from picketing teachers while trying to enter the building.” Denver kept their schools open during their own teachers strike and videos surfaced showing “students dancing in the hallways and students painting a chaotic scene…”. The small percentage of students attending school during a teacher strike has little to no supervision, as staff are spread so thinly. This could lead to potential hazards and dangers to both school security and student safety. For example, limited staff means there is less supervision of students in the hallways and lunchrooms, which is when bullying or fighting incidents could occur.  One principal stated, “I believe that we should close schools, if it's not a safe and secure environment.".

Students may enjoy not having to finish homework assignments and study for tests and quizzes, but teacher strikes do have a negative effect on more than just learning. LA School Report explains every day students are not in the classroom they’re losing valuable learning opportunities. “Students lose daily social interactions with their peers, which helps build character and good citizenship.” If parents are not able to provide childcare during teacher strikes they’re either losing out on their earnings from work, or are leaving their children unsupervised. Students who rely on school breakfasts and lunches could also have their nutrition compromised. The fallout of not having the structured school week can have detrimental effects on everybody in the school community.

Teacher Strikes: Why Did Teachers Go On Strike?

In Los Angeles, California, more than 30,000 public school teachers went on strike, affecting 500,000 students in 900 schools. As this district is the second largest district in the country, this teacher strike had a large impact on both student success and school security.

The New York Times explains, “The decision to walk off the job came after months of negotiations between the teachers’ union, United Teachers Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles Unified School District. Although educators on all sides agree California should spend more money on education, the union and the district (were) locked in a bitter feud about how Los Angeles should use the money it already gets.”

For the many school teachers who participated in the LA teacher strike, their reasoning behind the strike was not just about labor issues, but for the future of public education in the area. Michael Schepps, who teaches 7th grade world history, said, “I have 41 students, and in two of my classes it prevents me from doing things I want to do, such as group work. I used to do plays in my classroom, with costumes, and because of the numbers, I can no longer do that.” The overflowing classrooms made it difficult to foster positive learning environments for students, leading to disciplinary problems and an impact on student academic success. According to Morningside Center, California has the highest student-teacher ratio of 24 students per teacher. This compares to “a ratio of 12 to 1 in states like New Jersey, North Dakota, and Vermont.”  Another teacher in the area explained, “"It's not about salary. It's about having a nurse every day in our school. Currently we have a nurse for two days a week, and students get sick every day or get hurt every day.”

After an overwhelming amount of support for a contract agreement between the school district in LA and the union, the teacher strike in Los Angeles ended after 9 days.

School security is extremely important to us here at Alert Solutions. Our reliable and efficient school notification platform, SwiftK12, is used to send out alerts and messages to keep students safe and parents informed. Interested in learning more? Download our brochure today!

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Topics: school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education

Hurricane Preparedness Week: Is Your K-12 School Ready?

Posted by Tara Gibson on Thu, May 09, 2019 @ 09:05 AM

This week is National Hurricane Preparedness Week and the 2019 hurricane season is nearly upon us. According to initial hurricane predictions from the Weather Company, this season is expected to be above average “with a total of 14 named storms predicted, seven of which are expected to be hurricanes.” Hurricanes are one of the most powerful and destructive natural disasters, forming over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico throughout hurricane season, which spans from June through November every year.

School Closed Hurricane Preparedness

Last year Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 hurricane, hit Florida hard in early October. Many K-12 schools and districts were either forced to close down, or were so severely damaged that many couldn’t return to those schools for the remainder of the school year.

The destruction caused many problems for teachers and students. Teachers weren’t sure on how much homework to give students, as many did not have internet access. Dress codes had to be completely dropped, as many families lost all of their belongings including school uniforms. According to the Orlando Sentinel, “A little more than 29,000 students across the district were enrolled in schools on the last day of classes before Hurricane Michael hit the Panhandle... Enrollment had dropped by more than 2,600 students, almost 9 percent, districtwide by the Friday before Thanksgiving.” A huge drop due to students either moving away or dropping out of school all together.

K-12 schools must prepare both their faculty and their students before a hurricane or any other severe weather event.

Hurricane Preparedness: Before a Storm

  • Educate Students & Staff
    It’s extremely important to educate both students and staff on the potential threat of a hurricane or other severe weather event. Hurricane preparedness is understanding what could happen in the event of a hurricane and how your school can prepare for the worst.

  • Develop a Plan
    Your K-12 school should have an action plan in place specifically for each natural disaster threat, including a hurricane. Although your school may be closed before a hurricane hits, there are still plans that should be put in place including evacuations, announcements, drills and more.

  • Examine School Layout
    Weather.gov recommends examining the layout of your school to determine potential shelter areas. In the case of a hurricane there are fast winds which could cause structural damage. Getting students to a safe area within school grounds is imperative to their safety. Weather.gov provides the following suggestions for safe spots within your school:
    • Interior, small rooms usually offer the best protection.
    • Offices or bathrooms are usually favored locations.
    • Interior hallways are usually another good option, but avoid getting too close to outside door openings.
    • Avoid exterior class rooms or rooms with many windows.
    • Avoid large span ceiling rooms like gymnasiums, auditoriums, and cafeterias.
    • Avoid portable classrooms.

  • Implement a Reliable School Notification Platform
    Keeping everybody updated with open communication is key in the event of a hurricane or any other severe weather event. It’s important to make sure your school notification platform is reliable so school administrators can send alerts to parents, students and staff across multiple channels such as text, email, phone call, and social media, quickly and easily. Our notification system, SwiftK12, is backed by a fully redundant network. SwiftK12 helps K-12 schools reliably reach hundreds or even thousands of student families within minutes. When time is of the essence, it’s comforting to have a trustworthy system to help. 

  • Practice, Practice, Practice!
    Once in place it is essential to practice running through your plan to determine if everything would run smoothly in the event of a hurricane. This includes working with students to go through drills, testing your school wide alert system, and making sure any kinks are worked out. gov states “A practice will not only help confirm the validity of your plan and illustrate any deficiencies to be addressed, but can educate your students and staff on proper responses during severe weather.”

Hurricane preparedness should not be taken lightly, especially in K-12 schools and districts. Schools are responsible for staff and student safety, which is why having a plan, determining safe spaces, implementing reliable technology, and practicing your plan is extremely important.

At Alert Solutions we offer a reliable and efficient school notification platform, SwiftK12, which is used across the country and internationally to send out alerts and messages to keep students, staff, and parents safe and informed.

Interested in learning more? Download our brochure today!

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: student health, school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent communication

K-12 Schools Must Address Student Mental Health Concerns After 2 Parkland Survivor Suicides

Posted by Nina Caliri on Thu, Apr 04, 2019 @ 09:04 AM

There is nothing more upsetting than switching on the T.V. or radio to hear about a devastating school shooting. In 2018, thirty-five people in the U.S. died in school shootings, with many losing their lives in the February 14th shooting in Parkland Florida. That number doesn’t include the 79 people injured during these country-wide school shootings, and the many more that were deeply affected and are living with mental health issues. These student mental health concerns include PTSD and depression due to survivor’s guilt and the heartbreaking loss of friends and faculty.

Student Mental Health

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting occurred just over a year ago, yet the Parkland community continues to mourn over the effects of that tragedy. Within just one week, two Parkland survivors took their own lives.  Sydney Aiello, a 19-year-old graduate and a senior at the time of the mass shooting, died of an apparent suicide after struggling with PTSD and survivors guilt after living through the deaths of her classmates. The second survivor who committed suicide has been identified as 16-year-old sophomore, Calvin Desir. These suicides have shaken the community to the core, and have prompted people to take a closer look at the well-being of students and their mental health.

According to the Cut, “this is not the first time we’ve seen the toll of experiencing the trauma of a school shooting can take.” After the Columbine incident, a student and a mother of a student who was injured both took their own lives, and six students attempted suicide after a tragic school shooting in Ohio that left three students dead.

3 Student Mental Health Concerns to Look Out For

The Daily Beast explains, “Witnessing a school shooting is especially traumatic given the malleable shape of the brain of school children. Younger pupils are developing foundational skills that will allow them to learn more complex skills, while older students are balancing emotional and intellectual maturation through puberty.” With this being said, there are a few student mental health concerns educators, school administrators, and parents should be looking out for after a school shooting or school tragedy.

Multiple triggers such as smells, sounds, or even a memorial, could initiate a downward spiral for somebody who is suffering from depression, PTSD, or “survivor’s guilt”. Below each are defined:

Depression:
Depression, or major depressive disorder, is defined as a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. “Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.” If you notice your students no longer care about their coursework, are absent often, and are uncharacteristically withdrawn, they may be experiencing depression or another mental health disorder.

PTSD:
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is common for those who have witnessed gun violence. It is defined as “a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.” According to The Daily Beast, PTSD affects the area in the brain that processes stress and emotion, which is why many survivors report to feeling “numb” and are unable to respond in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy.

Survivor’s Guilt:
According to the Cut, survivor’s guilt by itself is not a diagnosis. It is a phenomenon that occurs involving the belief or question about one’s worth and one’s value. Students may ask “why did I survive when other people did not?” Or “why did I deserve to live and others did not?” Survivor’s guilt triggers these questions and students can blame themselves for not doing something more to save a friend or faculty member. These distortions are often linked to mood changes and depression, and are associated directly with PTSD.

Teachers and school administrators spend the most time with school-aged children who may be suffering from depression or PTSD after a detrimental tragedy.

Alert Solutions recommends keeping open communication with both students and their parents as often as possible, so teachers and administrators can effectively address a student’s mental health concern. Keeping a lookout for any signs or symptoms of depression, PTSD, or any other mental health issue is extremely important.Sharing any and every concern could end up saving a life.

Rave Mobile Safety recently acquired Alert Solutions, which allows us to share new school safety products such as the Rave Panic Button. The Rave Panic button allows users to alert 9-1-1 of an emergency and simultaneously send notifications to people on-site of the incident with just the push of a button. It has been proven to shorten response times, which could be a matter of life or death in school shooter situation.

Interested in learning more? Feel free to schedule a free consultation today.

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Topics: student health, school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, school culture, school climate

Do You Have an Inclusive Classroom? Protect Your LGBTQ Students

Posted by Tara Gibson on Thu, Mar 28, 2019 @ 10:03 AM

Putting a focus on creating an inclusive learning environment for the young LGBTQ populations in K-12 schools is more important than ever. While there are more LGBTQ leaders represented in politics, media, and entertainment industries, schools can still be a very challenging place for LGBTQ kids. At a younger age children are questioning and discovering exactly who they are, which is why it’s essential to make sure you have an inclusive classroom and a safe place for kids to learn.

LGBTQ Inclusive Classroom - Rainbow Puzzle Pieces

Studies have shown LGBTQ students are much more likely to experience bullying and harassment in school, which leads to absenteeism and a higher risk of suicide. Mary Gilreath, a teacher in Colorado, goes out of her way to address gender identity in her classroom. Gilreath says “it’s a safety issue and a mental health issue for kids," pointing to the recent suicide of a 9-year-old Denver boy who was bullied after he came out to his classmates.

A 2013 study reports more than 74% of LGBTQ students were verbally harassed, and 36% were physically harassed due to their sexual orientation. Truly shocking statistics. Bullying in any way is terrible, but bullying directed at young children who are discovering their gender identity can be extremely detrimental to a child’s mental and physical health. At Alert Solutions, we do not tolerate bullying or cyberbullying in any way. Our Speak Up! Anti-Bullying platform was designed to help drastically reduce bullying incidents in K-12 schools, while maintaining student anonymity.

Before working on an inclusive classroom, teachers and school administrators need to understand gender identity terms. Without this knowledge teachers will struggle to fully grasp the range of identities within these communities, which automatically puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to supporting their students as allies. Accredited Online Schools put together a helpful list of the most common terms that relate to LGBTQ groups. They include:

  • Ally
    An ally is somebody who doesn’t identify as LGBTQ, but supports any and all individuals who do. They also advocate on their behalf.
  • Asexual
    Asexual individuals are not sexually attracted to either sex.
  • Bisexual
    Bisexual individuals are attracted to both sexes, either in physical or emotional ways, or both.
  • Cisgender
    A cisgender individual is somebody who identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Closeted
    An individual who has not yet revealed their gender identity or sexual orientation publicly.
  • Coming Out/Disclosure
    When an LGBTQ individual discloses their sexual orientation or gender identity to their friends, family, and community.
  • Gay/Lesbian
    Individuals who are emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to someone of the same gender.
  • Gender-Expansive
    Gender-expansive individuals believe there is a wider spectrum of gender identities than just male and female.
  • Gender Expression
    How one expresses gender identity using outward appearances, behaviors or other means.
  • Gender Identity
    Gender identity is how somebody sees themselves, not by the sex assigned at birth.
  • Gender-Neutral
    Gender neutral “refers to a number of different concepts, all of which revolve around neutrality. It could be used to discuss gender-neutral pronouns, bathrooms or identities.”
  • Questioning
    Individuals who are questioning are people who are exploring their sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Transgender
    Individuals who are transgender don’t identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. They choose to express a different gender identity.
  • Transition
    Transition is “when an LGBT individual takes steps legally, medically, or socially to affirm their gender identity. This may include changing one’s name or seeking gender reassignment surgeries.”

Having knowledge of the above terms as a teacher or school administrator is the starting point of creating an inclusive classroom. Without knowing the several terms that relate to the LGBTQ community teachers may struggle to advocate for their students as allies, which would create an unsupportive learning environment where children spend most of their time.

5 Ways to Create an Inclusive Classroom

A Queer Endeavor is an organization that helps teachers navigate how to intervene when they see anti-LGBTQ bullying and how to be there for students who are feeling vulnerable. They put together a list of helpful tips on how to make your classroom an inclusive classroom:

  1. Let Students Identify Themselves
    On the first day of class have students fill out index cards with their preferred name and pronoun. Teachers should update their class list, and make sure to address their students by their preferred name and pronoun.

  2. Avoid Gendered Language
    Teachers should avoid addressing the class with gendered language such as “Ladies and Gentlemen” or “Boys and Girls”.

  3. Avoid Grouping by Gender
    Instead of grouping students by gender for activities and projects, group them by preferences such as ice cream flavors or favorite animals. You could also group by birthdays or birth months.

  4. All-Gender Bathrooms
    If your K-12 school has all-gender bathrooms, make sure your students know exactly where they are. Teachers should also be clear they are for everybody.

  5. Solidify Your Ally Status
    Make sure your students know you are their ally. For example; you could hang a rainbow flag, share your own pronouns with students, and start up or support LGBTQ groups or clubs.

Having an inclusive classroom will benefit everybody in the class! LGBTQ students will feel safer knowing they have an ally in a teacher or school administrator, and will likely have their classmates as their allies as well.

At Alert Solutions we understand the importance of having an inclusive classroom. We work hard to help K-12 schools and districts battle and tackle bullying incidents with our Speak Up! Anti-Bullying platform.  Want to learn more? Download our brochure today!

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Topics: bullying, cyberbullying, school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, school climate

Why K-12 Schools Should Take Student Mental Health Seriously

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, Feb 28, 2019 @ 10:02 AM

Mental health awareness is a topic being discussed more often, and it’s a conversation many need to have. Mental health conditions are becoming more prominent in students around the teenage and adolescent ages, with many experiencing this onset by the age of 14.

Student Mental Health - Student Taking ExamThe National Alliance on Mental Health shares startling statistics, such as one in five youths currently live with a mental health condition, and less than half of these individuals do not receive any services for their condition. “Undiagnosed, untreated or inadequately treated mental health conditions can affect a student’s ability to learn, grow and develop.”

K-12 schools are the place the majority of young people spend their days. It’s extremely important that school teachers and administrators educate themselves on student mental health and make sure their students are getting the help they need.  NAMI explains school personnel play an important role in identifying the early warning signs in students who are experiencing an emerging mental health condition. Once identified, students should be connected with effective services and support.

Common Student Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders come in many shapes and sizes, and students begin to battle these issues at a young age.  Many mental health disorders impact everyday life, making it difficult for students to focus entirely on schoolwork. Some of the common mental disorders are listed below, with the help from Teen Mental Health.

  • Anxiety disorders are classified as disturbances in brain mechanisms that are designed to protect a person from harm. Below are the types of anxiety disorders:
    • General Anxiety Disorder
    • Social Anxiety Disorder
    • Panic Disorder
    • Specific Phobias
  • Mood disorders are classified as disturbances in usual mood states. Below are a two common mood disorders:
    • Major Depressive Disorder, or commonly referred to as Clinical Depression
    • Bipolar Disorder
  • Personality disorders are classified as maladaptive personal characteristics. Below are several personality disorders:
    • Eccentric: Paranoid, Schizoid, Schizotypal
    • Dramatic/Emotional: Antisocial, Narcissistic
    • Fear Related: Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
  • Eating disorders are classified as disturbances of weight and feeding behavior. A few eating disorders to look out for include:
    • Anorexia Nervosa
    • Bulimia Nervosa
    • Binge Eating Disorder
  • There are many more mental health disorders listed by Teen Mental Health. Click here for more.

Understanding the Impact of Student Mental Health

As the first line of defense, educators must understand the importance of student mental health, and the impact it has on young people. Unfortunately, when a young adult is faced with a mental health disorder, they often don’t address or treat it until a later age. Student mental health disorders correlate with low achievement, disruptive behavior, chronic absenteeism, and even dropping out of school altogether.

As the first signs of a mental health disorder usually present themselves around the age of 14, teachers who interact with students this age should begin to keep an eye out for any behavior that appears to signify mental illness so that they’re able to get the help they need.

How to Spot & Address Student Mental Health Concerns

There are a few indicators to look out for when considering student mental health. If you see a student withdrawing, being unsocial, lacking self-confidence, or acting out of character, they may need help.

Nancy Barile, an award-winning teacher, started to notice that one of her students was not herself. She explains this student was always punctual when it came to classes and homework, was meticulous with her appearance and was always friendly. When Nancy noticed she no longer tried with her school work, was showing up to school disheveled and wearing the same clothes, and was uncharacteristically withdrawn, she knew something was terribly wrong.

Luckily there were mental health experts ready to help. Nancy explains, “They discovered that (this student) was depressed and suicidal, and she needed an immediate psychiatric intervention. She was hospitalized for a period of time, but she was able to return to my classroom a few months later. With the help of medication and therapy, she managed to graduate with her class.”

This is an important example of how teachers and administrators can spot a problem and effectively address a student’s mental health concern.

Having open communication and informative conversations about these tough subjects is extremely important, as it could save a student’s life. 

Alert Solutions works with many K-12 districts and schools across the country, all of which should be aware of the importance of student mental health. Sharing information internally and externally with students, teachers and parents will help keep everybody informed and engaged in the topic of student mental health awareness. This can easily be done through blogging, social media, and with a school notification platform such as SwiftK12.

Interested in learning more about SwiftK12? Download our brochure below.

 SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: student health, school announcement, school safety, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, school culture, school climate

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

A New Year Brings New Technology Trends to K-12 Education

Posted by Tara Gibson on Mon, Dec 17, 2018 @ 10:12 AM

Most K-12 administrators are constantly evaluating which educational technology trends will make the largest impact in their school community, especially around this time of year.

While many of those technology trends are spurred by productive and positive change, at least one has come about from a need for better protection and improved school safety.

As of May the U.S. was already averaging one school shooting per week, and over the past nine years our country has produced 57 times more school shootings than Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy, France and the UK combined, according to one CNN analysis.

That points to the absolute necessity of having an emergency alert system that can reach parents, students, staff members and emergency personnel at any time, no matter where they are.

Cutting-edge emergency alert systems, however, won’t be the only technology trends to gain importance in the next several years. A recent timeline published in EdTech magazine predicts the following:

Technology Trends Within the Year 

Child Watching 3D Printer Technology

  • The so-called “makerspaces” giving students hands-on experience with tech tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters and animation software will become more important.
  • Robotics will be increasingly leveraged for hands-on learning in STEM subjects and the promotion of critical and computational thinking.

Technology Trends Within Two-Three Years

  • Schools will increasingly optimize Big Data for targeted decisions that will improve student learning and help at-risk students.
  • Students will have access to VR headset applications that will enhance their learning — for example, giving them up-close views of scientific phenomena.

Technology Trends Within Four-Five Years

  • Artificial intelligence will provide valuable insights into the teaching and learning process, relieving teachers of tedious tasks.
  • IoT technologies will increasingly improve facilities operations and inform about how different actions affect student achievement.

With the rapid pace of technology change in U.S. society, our education system could look very different in the next half decade. K-12 schools willing and able to look ahead will be better prepared and better equipped to take advantage of new technology trends.

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Topics: school announcement, school safety, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education

Year in Review: Alert Solutions’ Most Read Education Blog Posts of 2017

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 @ 14:12 PM

From launching our new SwiftK12 school notification system and receiving all three integration badges from PowerSchool to partnering with eChalk to offer customers content management for school websites, 2017 was another HUGE year for Alert Solutions’ education division.

Our education specialists were also hard at work providing k-12 school administrators with all the hot topics on our blog. Here are the most viewed education blog posts of 2017:  

1. 3 Everyday Strategies to Help Schools Improve Student Attendance Rates
Attendance is essential to academic success, but all too often, parents and students don’t realize how absences can add up to academic trouble. This blog post shared 3 everyday strategies k-12 schools an implement to improve student attendance.

2. K-12 Schools Turn to Digital Communication Tools to Meet ESSA Parent parentteacher1.jpgEngagement Mandate
In order to receive parent engagement funding, ESSA mandates that k-12 school districts conduct outreach to ‘all parents and family members’. Advocates of improving parent engagement say technology like school notification systems could help k-12 schools meet the law’s requirement.

3. Making the Most of Back-to-School Communication – 3 Tips for Your K-12 School
As students arrive for a new school year, k12 school administrators need to have a school communication strategy ready to go. To alleviate some of the back-to-school stress you may be experiencing, we’ve compiled 3 tips, including encouraging teacher-parent communication.

4. Improving School Safety – 4 Components of a Successful Emergency Preparedness Plan
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. To help, we’ve compiled 4 components of a successful emergency preparedness or school safety plan: form a team, define and share your school safety plan, improve student relationships, and implement a school notification system.

What was your favorite education blog post from 2017? Share your thoughts with us!

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Topics: attendance, school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent engagement, truancy, parent communication, emergency preparedness

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