A few months into the year, we’re battling an uptick in fights and weapons that’s causing a wave of fear and anxiety across campuses. At the same time, we’re still working to strengthen bonds and build trust with students and staff, while trying to keep everyone on track academically.
Most days, it feels like an impossible task. (And let’s be honest - it very well may be!) But there are a few things schools can do today to strengthen safety, increase preparedness and build trust. They all stem from one focus: going back to basics.
My team and I have been pulled in on countless crisis responses this year and in each, we're seeing schools that were missing the basic elements. Wondering where to begin? Start with these three steps:
1) Update or develop your emergency leadership plan (and backup plan) - Predetermine who will take the primary leadership (“Incident Commander”) role in an emergency, and who will be on their team. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read this primer on Incident Command.) Already have your leadership team defined? Great. Now build backups. And backup-backups. Your plan is only as good as the people who are on campus to implement it, so make sure you can cover your bases when people are sick, out for coffee, on a field trip, etc.
2) Regular Drills - Drills can be intimidating in Covid times, but they’re critical to ensuring you’re ready to respond to an emergency. There are Covid-safe ways to do them (like having students hide under desks rather than bunching together during lockdown drills). Practice decreases fear and increases confidence, so be sure to keep practicing.
3) Communication - Keep telling your community what you’re doing when it comes to safety. You communicated heavily through the beginning and middle of the pandemic, and it’s just as important now.
In parallel to these three steps, be sure to talk to your mental health leaders about the ways in which they can influence trust, relationships, and care among each audience in your community. It might be listening, it might be talking, it might be something else - each community is unique. But any steps you take now to build and rebuild relationships will pay off in the short and long term.