Create Safe Places to Learn

Prepare and Manage Crisis

The best way to deal with crisis is before it happens. Violence, weather related events, fire, death of a student or staff member are examples of emergency situations often encountered at school. To meet the challenge of any of these crises, BE PREPARED by:

  • Establishing a crisis management procedures;
  • Partnering with local emergency management services to ensure cooperative, quick, and efficient response;
  • Establishing a "Care Team"
  • Training staff in their roles and responsibilities for implementing the plan; and
  • Advising students, parents and the community at large of the plan’s components.

Parents, students, school personnel, and other community members have become keenly interested in the issue of school safety. As more and more incidents erupt, parents and other community members have become more vocal about their insistence for the school community to take actions that ensure maximum safety and security of their students. Action requires first understanding about what the issue is—what is the scope of the problem and the solution and how likely is school violence to happen in my school?

Taking action requires a thorough assessment of conditions that either contribute to or erode a safe, orderly learning community. Finally, assessment is worthless unless action is taken to remedy any conditions found lacking or to recognize and celebrate those conditions that are already functioning at optimal capacity. Action is organized on three levels: building a school-wide operating foundation; creating services and supports that address the needs of all children; and provide coordinated, comprehensive, and intensive services for those students exhibiting unruly or violent behaviors.

Every day 53,000,000 plus children—20 percent of the total US population—attend school or day care . Keeping children safe and healthy during school hours is central to the mission of each school district. During times of crisis, school staff must function temporarily as first responder, parent, nurse, and physician. During a crisis, schools may need to feed, shelter, administer first aid, and handle mental health needs of all students, often including an array of special needs students or students with limited English proficiency.

The way each community uses “crisis” depends upon their own history, culture, and way of doing business. An emergency is generally thought to be any situation that requires an immediate police, fire, or medical response to preserve life or property. Emergencies include a serious injury or illness (e.g., loss of consciousness, difficulty breathing, severe pain or bleeding), a fire, a chemical spill, a drowning, a fight, an assault or immediate danger of assault, a crime in progress, a situation involving weapons, a suicide attempt, etc.

Whether the incident is an unexpected event that can be managed by using existing resources and capabilities, or one that is considered a disaster—an incident that requires an increased level of response beyond the routine operative procedures, including increased personnel, equipment, or supply requirements—planning with local emergency responders before the event is key. Working together, school and community responders will development steps consistent with the fours stages of emergency management:

  • Mitigation/Prevention addresses what schools and districts can do to eliminate risk to life and property.
  • Preparedness focuses on the process of planning for potential hazards and includes training staff and students and developing crisis response procedures
  • Response includes action steps to effectively address an emergency or crisis; and
  • Recovery deals with restoring the learning environment, both physically and emotionally after a crisis.

Promote a Climate of Respect and Responsibility

The cultural practices of any school emanate from the school’s vision and mission and the leadership that is put in place to accomplish that mission/vision. The vision and mission reflects the community’s culture—the shared set of values and beliefs, norms and customs, and rules and codes that binds the community together and gives residents a sense of commonality. Because culture is learned and transmitted, it involves perception and interpretation of the shared rules, norms, and customs, which in turn manifests as behavior. Culture is dynamic, evolving with new technologies, communication patterns, and knowledge.

In 2011, ODE held a series of regional trainings on safe and supportive learning. Clickhere to view an autumn 2011 Regional Trainings Summary Report that reveals what educators and community support personnel viewed as their needs and obstacles in establishing local systems of learning supports and positive school climates.

To help schools develop comprehensive systems of learning support, ODE created the Comprehensive System of Learning Supports Guidelines that allow districts flexibility in designing educational services that meet the unique needs of all their students. They are intended to help administrators:

  • Increase academic performance by designing systems that identify issues early on that interfere with a child's ability to learn;
  • Help all children, from non-proficient to accelerated students, meet their potential; and
  • Fulfill public funding requirements for planning, student diagnostic assessments, data collection and evaluation.

Through appropriate implementation of these guidelines, districts will meet or exceed Ohio Revised Code 3313.6012 requirements.

System of Care Concept and Philosophy - a coordinated network of community-based services and supports for children with or at risk for mental health or other challenges. The network builds meaningful partnerships with families to help them function better at home, in school, in the community, and throughout life.

Address Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB)

In 2007, Ohio House Bill 276 mandated that the Ohio Department of Education, in consultation with other state agencies and education organizations, prepare a model policy to guide every district in developing a policy that prohibits harassment, intimidation and bullying. Each public school district (including city, local, exempted village, joint vocational districts and community schools), could choose to adopt the model policy or create its own policy aligned with the model. The bill also required ODE to develop a Safety and Violence Prevention Curriculum for district personnel. In November 2010, per HB 19, the policy was amended to include Section 3 on Violence Within a Dating Relationship.

This State Board of Education-approved model policy contains procedures for reporting, documenting and investigating incidents of harassment, intimidation and bullying (including cyber bullying) as explained in the model policy and Ohio Revised Code. The document delineates responsibilities for school personnel and presents student intervention strategies. The policy also states the requirements for districts to:

  1. Consult with students, parents, school employees, volunteers and community members in developing policies and programs;
  2. Publish policies in student handbooks and employee training materials;
  3. Locally report on a semiannual basis a summary of reported incidents;
  4. Provide training on local policies to the extent that state or federal funds are appropriated for these purposes.

Web Links is a website developed by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services that contains a wealth of information to help schools and families deal with bullying. Recent updates to the site include interactive videos for young people, practical strategies for schools and communities, and suggestions on how parents can talk about bullying with their children. It also contains maps that detail state policies about bullying, as well as other information.

Kansas Safe School Resource Center offers resources, including a model policy on peer mediation, peaceful problem solving, school climate plans, and integrating conflict resolution instruction into existing curricula.

Teaching Tolerance has free resources for addressing issues of diversity and bullying.

Bullying Prevention Resources – a variety of bullying-prevention resources including Web links, printed materials, a telephone hotline, and training programs.

Safety and Violence Prevention Training – a child-abuse detection curriculum for training school administrators, nurses, teachers, counselors, school psychologists and administrators.

National Teen Dating Violence Hotline

To find Ohio YRBS data, visit: Ohio Department of Health,


Substance Abuse Prevention Toolkit

The Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services has partnered with the Ohio Department of Education and Drug Free Action Alliance to develop the attached toolkit and activity guide to help you share drug free messages in your classroom.