Lunch and Learn Series by MASOC and MACA
Racial Disparities of Autism Spectrum Disorders and its Relation to PSB This workshop will…
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From a physical perspective the general rule in protecting children is visibility. One of the greatest fears of those who would bully, assault, steal from, sexually abuse, or otherwise victimize children is being seen. Schools can employ best practices strategies to look at all safety factors and areas of risk, including the physical and virtual spaces children inhabit, and work to strengthen the safety and security of those environments. The key strategies to employ, either on-site or off-site, are visibility, access, supervision/training and communication.
A periodic review of the school’s buildings and surrounding property provides an opportunity to assess any risk it presents to its students. Physical spaces that offer opportunities for anyone to isolate a child and possibly cause harm without being observed or interrupted must be addressed as a priority. Options to modify the space might include considering the placement of lighting, windows, doors, mirrors, and cameras. Risk can also be reduced through establishing policies that guide behavioral expectations between staff and students, and between the students themselves (see Code of Conduct section below).
Schools are encouraged to take actions to design, build or adapt existing spaces to maximize visibility include the following 35 :
A school’s safe environment policies should complement the safety measures established for the physical environment by establishing procedures that govern such things as:
A clearly articulated, written set of safety policies and procedures allows school leadership to demonstrate a commitment to building and maintaining an environment in which every student is safe. It also affords the ability for leadership to set the example and build confidence in the commitment through action, and helps everyone to be on the same page. Copies of these policies should be distributed widely, posted in public spaces, taught as a focused lesson or integrated into the curriculum, added to student handbooks, reviewed in regular faculty training, and sent home to parents and caregivers in the primary language of the household. Some of these actions might include but are not limited to:
These are just some – but not all – of the physical and procedural steps that can be taken to create safe school environments. Additional guidance, strategies, and tools can be found on the Safe Kids Thrive website in the Safe Environments section. 36
These include expanded information (for both on and off-site activities) on topics of visibility, access, supervision, communication, safety considerations when transporting students, a set of minimum physical and procedural safety standards, and a 3-step decision-making and implementation process to help schools assess risk and determine what additional safety elements might be needed. The website also has a facilities design checklist on its Safe Environment Resources page 37
and a more detailed interactive and printable Safe Environment Checklist 38
that helps schools to take inventory of their safe environment framework.
Additional information on building safe environments pertinent to schools can also be found on the websites of the Centers for Disease Control 39 , and the National Center for Education Statistics. 40 The assumption is that most schools have already made provisions for the above but listing them allows you to check your policies against those that are recommended for child safety.
35 Adapted from the National Crime Prevention Council’s “School Safety and Security Toolkit”: (https://www.ncpc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/NCPC_SchoolSafetyToolkit.pdf) and the Canadian Red Cross “Ten Steps to Creating Safe Environments for Children and Youth (2015): (https://www.redcross.ca/crc/documents/Where-We-Work/Canada/Yukon-%20NWT-%20Nunavut/Ten-Steps-Manual_English-PDF.pdf)
39 Saul J, Audage NC. Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Within Youth-serving Organizations: Getting Started on Policies and Procedures. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2007. Note: currently under revision to be released in 2022 (https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/preventingchildsexualabuse-a.pdf).
40 Wang, K., Chen, Y., Zhang, J., and Oudekerk, B.A. (2020). Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2019, National Center for Education Statistics, Indicator 19: Safety and Security Practices at Public Schools (https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/iscs19.pdf)
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