School Safety Advocacy Council Helps Schools Find Their Strengths
In addition to its ongoing training programs, the School Safety Advocacy Council (SSAC) increased its emphasis on school safety assessments in 2013, helping schools focus on strengths, not weaknesses.
According to SSAC President Sean Burke, the organization performed approximately 70 assessments during the course of the year, ranging from the largest school district in the country (Los Angeles Unified) to one-room schoolhouses. They join dozens of other schools that have used SSAC for school safety assessments in the past 15 years.
“Unlike some for-profit businesses, we don’t play the ‘Gotcha Game.’ They really focus on the negatives and that does a school no good. We come in and do a thorough assessment using Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design [CPTED] principles. We review all their policies and their emergency plans, and we give the school a comprehensive report,” Burke says. “We highlight the things a school is doing right in addition to the things that need improvement. For the areas that need improvement, we give them several options, and if possible, they’re either low-cost or free. We know that budgets are tight.”
For example, one school in Illinois asked for an assessment after getting an estimate of $130,000 to secure its front door; SSAC came up with a solution that secured the door just as well for $2,000. SSAC uses the services of a professional and does charge schools enough to cover expenses, but still far less than they would pay a for-profit business.
In addition to the assessments, SSAC has increased its assistance to schools performing one-to-one technology rollouts of devices such as iPads and laptops during 2013: “There are so many aspects of safety that schools don’t even consider. We work with them to make sure they consider ‘digital citizenship’ related to proper use of technology, and mobile device management that will track stolen devices and even wipe them clean from a central location. They also need a plan on how to safely store the devices during school vacations,” Burke says, adding that he believes SSAC is the only organization in the country providing this type of service.
Another service provided by SSAC involves putting the organization on retainer to provide a specified number of hours of training annually to a school district, covering subjects such as emergency management, overall school safety and teacher concerns about being safe in the classroom. SSAC, which has trained more than 100,000 law enforcement officers and education professionals in the United States and abroad, also offers other specialized services and trainings on a regular basis:
- Basic School Resource Officer Certification.
- Advanced School Resource Officer Certification.
- School Safety Leadership & Supervision.
- Emergency Management Response in the Educational Setting.
- School Law & Liability.
- Understanding the Threat of Terrorism to Our Schools.
- Gangs 101: “What Every Educator Must Know.”
- PTA & Parent Education Programs.
- Conducting School Safety Surveys -Train the Trainer.
- Media Relations for the School Administrator.
- Customized In-Service Training Programs.
Specialized Anti-Bullying Training
- Bullycide in America.
- Bullying: “What Schools Need to Know.”
- Cyber & Electronic Bullying.
- School Bullying: “What Is Your Liability.”
- Customized PTA/Parent Trainings.
- School Safety Assessments.
- School Bullying Climate Assessment.
- Tabletop Crisis Scenarios.
- Full Emergency Drills.
- Emergency Policy/Procedure Development.
- School Safety & Bullying Expert Witness.
- Testimony & Legal Services.
In addition to providing training, SSAC holds two national conferences each year, one of them the largest conference on bullying in the United States (held every February). The agenda for the other 2014 event, set for July 28-August 1 in Orlando, focuses on emergency management. Presentations included one by representatives of the Washoe County School District Police on the shooting at Sparks Middle School on Oct. 23, 2013; another by subject-matter expert Don Alwes on the use of tactical teams; and one by Burke on sensible ideas for school safety.
“Common sense, low-cost ways to keep your school safe is one of our focuses right now. Also, a unique thing about SSAC is that all of the instructors we employ are subject-matter experts who remain active in the field. That’s what sets us apart,” Burke says. “There are training programs out there that just focus on school staff, and trainings that just focus on law enforcement, but we bring together the community, the schools and local law enforcement to address school safety and bullying. We see school safety as a community-wide responsibility.”