Continuous Cycle of Improvement to Advance School Safety
Identify School Safety Team
Set vision for the work of the team
Conduct self-assessment of current safety plans
Set school's vision for comprehensive safety
Gather & Analyze Data
Gather data from a broad range of stakeholders
Analyze data through an equity lens to determine the needs of vulnerable student subgroups
Identify priorities based on school specific data
Prioritize a limited set of achievable goals
Set measurable change goals
Identify & Prioritize Areas For Change
Match safety goals with strategies and interventions that can be adapted for your local school context
Determine staff development and training needed to implement change
Identify & Adapt
Begin Here Each Fall
Broadly communicate policy and practice changes
Create opportunities for stakeholders to provide feedback and contribute to advancing change
& Implement Safety Plan
On this page, we will share the lessons learned and implementation tools developed as we coach Chicago Public Schools through their development of alternatives to the use of school resource officers, and create school safety plans that address physical, psychological, emotional, and relational safety.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has made dramatic progress in reducing school-based arrests; an 80% reduction in the number of students arrested on school property. The district went from 3,320 arrests during the 2011-12 AY to 651 arrests during the 2018-19 AY. CPS is committed to continued reduction in arrests to narrow the racial and ethnic disparities that remain: during the 2018-19 AY, 526 Black, 107 Latinx, and 16 White students were arrested.
While the visibility of school-based arrests may capture our attention there are many other factors that go into ensuring that students and staff experience their schools as safe, supportive, and equitable learning environments. The Whole School Safety Plan will address physical safety (e.g., actual bodily harm and threats of bodily harm) along with psychological, emotional, and relational safety (e.g., supportive relationships, positive school climate, a strong sense of school belonging, and mental health).
To guarantee that high schools will be prepared to meet pre-existing discipline and safety needs, as well as new needs created by the pandemic, CPS is committed to ensuring that high schools are equipped by developing Whole School Safety Plans. Additionally, the National Association of School Psychologists estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in an overall doubling or tripling of students who exhibit social, emotional, and behavioral challenges at school. This means that SY21 safety plans must be proactive and include plans for teaching and re-teaching the foundational social and emotional skills, and school and classroom expectations that enable students and staff to create a thriving learning community through strong interpersonal interactions.
Fortunately, school safety is an issue for which there are effective strategies and interventions. However, although almost all schools have crisis plans, few have plans that proactively cultivate a safe school environment, and these safety plans are rarely based on an empirical understanding of each school’s specific safety challenges. To meet this need, we have created a guided and streamlined assessment, implementation, and evaluation process. This process is based on a broad review of school safety research and implementation manuals that centers school climate, relationships, belonging, and student mental health.
Research shows that school safety can be significantly improved by shifting away from reactive frameworks that wait for behavioral challenges and safety threats to emerge, and instead moving toward proactive safety plans that actively identify at-risk students and respond with developmental appropriate supports. Additionally, schools that make these shifts are more likely to show improvements in student achievement.
The Trauma Responsive Educational Practices Project (TREP Project) will work with district planning committees to develop a district-wide Whole School Safety planning process and protocols, and then coach schools through the process of developing and obtaining local community support for their Whole School Safety Plan. This will build on the Phase 1 work that is being completed by 5 community based organizations that will develop recommendations for alternatives to SROs.
Students have the most to gain and the most to lose from the extent to which schools cultivate a safe and supportive learning environment. Furthermore, student organizing and action has been integral to creating and maintaining a space for transformational change in school safety. Therefore, student collaboration will be integrated into each phase of developing and implementing change.
An equity and antiracist framework is necessary to guide allocation of resources and implementation of safety plans. CPS serves a racially, ethnically, and economically segregated city, and advancing educational equity requires remedying the role that the educational system has played in reinforcing societal oppression. To achieve this, equity must be given priority in the allocation of resources, and antiracist principles and practices must be used to guide implementation.