School Safety Resources

A principal's first job is to keep student safe. School safety starts with strong leadership: taking precautions to prevent crises in your building, developing a plan for disasters, and acting decisively if the unthinkable does occur.

Turn to these top resources collected by NAESP to strengthen safety at your school. These helpful articles, websites, and checklists will help you guide your school community through the prevention, management, and aftermath of safety issues.


School Crisis Resources For Those In Need

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Advice For Principals:

Principals should hold a 15-20 minute faculty meeting, first thing with all school staff to review the guidelines for their discussions and interactions with students.

Important information for staff to know:

  • The manner which adults express their emotions will influence the reactions of students. Be in emotional self-control when you address this topic.
  • Be honest with students and age appropriate with the topic. All children benefit from concrete information presented at the proper level of understanding, and maturity. Explain, but don’t provide unnecessary details.
  • Clearly, children need to know the truth, but they don’t need to hear about all of the consequences. Give them only facts that they need to know at that moment, but don’t share with them your fears about the future.
  • Young children interpret very literally; therefore you need to choose words carefully to insure the child will not misinterpret.
  • Children will react to information differently. Their reaction to the school shooting in CT will be based on their past experience and awareness of the situation.
  • Reinforcing safety is important with very young children. They need to hear that their parents/caregivers will do everything they can to keep them safe. Schools will be working to be sure that their school is a safe place for learning and having fun with friends and classmates.
  • Make sure students know that there are people in charge who help everyone stay safe. Children need to know that things are ok and that there are adults in charge who are helping everyone involved. Talk to your students about the people who are helping to ensure our school is safe, and share your admiration with them about the great work these people are doing.
  • Overall, students thrive on the consistent, predictable routines. Listen to them and answer questions with the theme of empathy toward the events and reassurance that they are safe. Encourage them to explore their specific questions at home under the guidance of their parents. After concluding the discussion, move into typical classroom routines as soon as possible.
  • If you feel a student is significantly upset or hyper focused on the topic, contact the school counselor or principal for support. Because parents and teachers see children in different situations, it is essential that they work together to share information. Parents need to have this information so that they can continue to support the child at home. Contact the parent to share details of your concerns.

Dialogue suggestion Kindergarten and Grade One:

Adult Opening Statement: Last week, in a school very far away from us, a horrible event took place which made many people sad and scared. I want everyone to know that our school is very safe. We have wonderful people like (name of principal), (name of guidance counselor), (name of custodian), (name of secretary) and of course all the teachers, Daddies, Mommies, grandparents, and friends that work together to make sure that we never have something sad or scary happen at our school. We are very lucky to have such good people in our lives that care for us and want us to be happy!*

*If students ask questions, please address them. Move on to your regular classroom routines as soon as possible.

Possible student statement: I heard that people died in a school.
Possible staff reply: Yes, that was very sad. We feel bad for those people. In our school we have many things in place to be sure that won’t happen here.

Possible student statement: How does (school principal) help?
Possible staff reply: Do you remember when we practiced our fire drill last week? That was to keep us safe.

Dialogue suggestion Grade Two and Grade Three:

Adult Opening Statement: Last week, in a school in another state, a horrible event took place which made many people scared and unhappy. Grownups and children died. It was very terrible and sad. I want everyone to know that our school is very safe. We have wonderful people like (name of principal), (name of guidance counselor), (name of custodian), (name of secretary) and of course all the teachers, parents, family and friends that work together to make sure that we never have something sad or scary happen at our school. We are very lucky to have such good people in our lives that care for us and keep us safe!

*If students ask questions, please address them. Move on to your regular classroom routines as soon as possible.

Possible student statement: How did the people die?
Possible staff reply: They were shot with a gun. Do you remember when (principal name) taught us about the weapons policy? That’s the rule that says no one is allowed to have guns in our school. This is just one of many rules and routines in place to be sure that our school is safe.

Possible student statement: What happens if a bad person gets in the school?
Possible staff reply: (Principal’s name) has taught us all what to do in case there is a dangerous situation in our school. We do a lock down drill each year. The adults know exactly what to do and where to go. Your job for any drill or emergency is to be good listeners and follow our directions.

Dialogue suggestion Fourth Grade through Sixth Grade:

Adult Opening Statement: You probably heard that a tragic school shooting occurred on Friday in a school in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty children and six adults lost their lives. As our president said to the nation on Friday, “Our hearts are broken.” Life can be terribly unfair and confusing. No one deserves such heartbreak. It’s always difficult, perhaps even impossible, to understand why such horrible things happen to innocent people, especially at a school.

These terrible events remind us all to treasure even the smallest things in life and to take time each day to tell those we love how much they mean to us. We want you to know that the adults in our school and your families care very much about your safety. Please be sure to talk with your parents about any detailed questions you have surrounding the events.*

*If students ask questions, please address them. Move on to your regular classroom routines as soon as possible.

Possible student statement: The guy that murdered all those people killed himself and his mom!
Possible adult reply: Yes, that’s the information I have also. It’s very sad and makes no sense.

Possible student statement: : I heard he shot 1st graders? Why would anyone do that?
Possible adult reply: It’s a terrible thing that no one understands. We are lucky to have many great people at our school who we appreciate and value to keep us safe.

Possible student statement: : Did anyone know the guy was going to shoot people before he actually did it?
Possible adult reply: John, I don’t know the answer. Those types of details are the questions which you need to ask your parents.

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Recommendations for Parents:

Start the conversation. Talk about the shooting with your child. Not talking about it can make the event even more threatening in your child’s mind. Silence suggests that what has occurred is too horrible even to speak about or that you do not know what has happened. With social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, text messages, newsbreaks on favorite radio and TV stations, and others), it is highly unlikely that children and teenagers have not heard about this. Chances are your child has heard about it, too.

What does your child already know? Start by asking what your child/teen already has heard about the events from the media and from friends. Listen carefully; try to figure out what he or she knows or believes. As your child explains, listen for misinformation, misconceptions, and underlying fears or concerns. Understand that this information will change as more facts about the shooting are known.

Gently correct inaccurate information. If your child/teen has inaccurate information or misconceptions, take time to provide the correct information in simple, clear, age-appropriate language.

Encourage your child to ask questions, and answer those questions directly. Your child/teen may have some difficult questions about the incident. For example, she may ask if it is possible that it could happen at their school; she is probably really asking whether it is “likely.” The concern about re-occurrence will be an issue for caregivers and children/teens alike. While it is important to discuss the likelihood of this risk, she is also asking if she is safe. This may be a time to review plans your family has for keeping safe in the event of any crisis situation. Do give any information you have on the help and support the victims and their families are receiving.

Let her know that the person responsible is under arrest and cannot hurt anyone else. Like adults, children/teens are better able to cope with a difficult situation when they have the facts about it. Having question-and-answer talks gives your child ongoing support as he or she begins to cope with the range of emotions stirred up by this tragedy.

Advice Courtesy of Missy Patschke

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