On December 14, 2012, the planning of the late Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, principal of Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut, saved the lives of 12 students during what CBS News called “one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.” Previously, she had taught students an emergency escape route out of the school. So, when the perpetrator’s semi-automatic rifle jammed, those 12 students who had been in his sights seized the opportunity and used the route to get away. That incident demonstrates the enormous benefit of a district safety plan: In a crisis, people will know what action to take rather than trying to figure out what to do in the midst of chaos.

In order to accomplish this, the district safety plan should be digitized and available on all staff computers and to all staff members—even coaches, advisers, midyear hires, and substitutes. It is essential that every staff member understands what to do during an emergency.

Related content: Safe and healthy students are a top priority

Of course, there are tasks you’ll need to undertake before reaching that point, and I’ve outlined three essential ones below: developing the plan, holding “courageous conversations,” and no- to low-cost enhancements.

Developing a district safety plan

An effective safety plan is shaped by a variety of knowledge, experience, and perspectives on the different aspects of a potential emergency. The best way to achieve this is to assemble a multidisciplinary team that meets on a monthly basis.

Related Content:

eSchool News School Safety Guide

The eSchool News School Safety Guide is here! It features strategies to help you create and maintain safe and secure learning environments, both physical and online. A new eSchool News Guide will launch each month–don’t miss a single one!

About the Author:

Dr. Joe Erardi is a retired superintendent from Newtown, Connecticut, who has been recognized as the outstanding school superintendent in Connecticut in 2017 and school administrator of the year in 2016. Presently, Erardi coordinates the American Association School Administrators safety website and has served as an executive board member of AASA for three years.


Add your opinion to the discussion.