Security & Safety

5 Steps to Incorporate Inclusivity into Your School Safety Plan

When the needs of every student, teacher, and staff member are considered in an inclusive safety plan, everyone can feel safe and protected — and better focus on academic success.

A study in 2020 analyzed the correlation between safety and student achievement in over 340,000 U.S. schools and found that when students don't feel safe at school, they are more likely to experience lower academic achievement. With school shootings, fighting, and bullying on the rise, it is hard to argue why students feel unsafe at school. And they aren't the only ones feeling this way. Teachers and staff members also feel unsafe while at work, which has directly impacted staff turnover.

Security and protection are the most essential aspects of someone's personal needs. When staff members and students feel safe on school grounds, they can focus more on learning and teaching, and the school can function as a place for academic success. In order for all staff members and students to feel safe and secure, the school or district must develop and implement safety plans that aren't merely legally compliant, but truly effective and inclusive in practice. For instance, this could be sending out communications in students' and staff's preferred languages while in emergency situations or making sure emergency notifications are multisensory when initiated, including audio and visual.

As a former educator and administrator of 20+ years, I have seen how the fear of harm directly impacts student well-being and overall achievement, as well as staff retention. Students deserve to feel safe and supported while learning. Likewise, teachers deserve to feel safe and supported at work. When every person is considered in and part of the safety plan, they are more likely to feel protected and able to focus on the reasons they are in the classroom. Every school's safety plan should include:

  1. Preferred languages. Those who do not use English as their primary language need to have access to emergency resources in their most comfortable language — including planning materials as well as emergency-in-progress resources and information.
  2. Accessibility. Students and staff who use movement and ability tools like walking aids and wheelchairs must feel safe and empowered in their emergency response — the same for those with differing ability levels and needs.
  3. Audio and visual alerts. Most alert systems are auditory, making it impossible for people who are hard of hearing or with hearing loss to know what is going on. A plan that includes visual emergency cues is crucial for these members of your school community.
  4. Multisensory. Emergency response plans must account for the members of the community with varying levels of sensory perception. Flashing lights and physical indicators should accompany audible alarms.
  5. Incident data. Collecting incident data whenever someone activates an emergency alert (name, alert type, location, time, and date) enables your team to review the data for implicit bias, which can then be addressed individually, with school policy, or through DEI training and workshops.

By implementing these five steps to create an inclusive safety plan, students and staff are more likely to feel protected and safe while on school grounds. This in turn allows students to focus on learning and staff to focus on their job responsibilities. Regardless of the student and staff member's background, socioeconomic status, or needs, everyone deserves to feel safe and supported where they learn and work.

About the Author

Dr. Roderick Sams is chief development officer for CENTEGIX.