5 Ways to Create a Multifaceted Student Safety Approach
93,000-student Colorado school district tackles the issue of student safety across 222 schools
- By Kellie Riley, Melissa Craven
- August 01, 2020
When second graders were given access to Gmail, and fourth
graders to start using Google Drive, we knew that we also
needed to ensure we were keeping kids safe in this new
world that we introduced them to. As a school district, it
was unacceptable for us to put this kind of technology in
the student's hand without some sort of oversight.
To make sure all of the bases were covered, we implemented a
layered approach to student safety that included the Gaggle student
safety platform, visitor and video management, robust drill schedules,
and emergency response training for all staff members. Here’s
how we did it:
Make the “human element” a central focus. The Denver Public
Schools Department of Safety has 140 employees and 18 uniformed,
armed officers who use mobile patrol vehicles. Another 18 of us are a
little ‘softer’ in our dress, but we are also armed to respond to emergencies.
Roughly 80 campus safety officers are assigned to DPS’ middle and
high schools and are coordinated by a 24/7/365 law enforcement dispatch
center (which handles about 20,000 calls annually).
Factor in the different ways students are using technology. Early
on, our district used the student safety platform only as an email
solution. That changed four years ago when we started using it for
Google Drive. The decision was largely driven by the fact that students
had stopped using email to communicate with one another and
had moved onto having conversations in documents and files using
Drive. That was a real eye-opener for us.
Adopt a student safety platform. With incidences of suicide and
self-harm growing exponentially among our youth—and with districts
like DPS giving them tools to communicate this and tell us their
inner most feelings—it is extremely important that we take each
instance seriously and monitor to make sure that they're safe.
The student safety platform is central to our online safety management
approach. This layered approach has helped us create a “full
spectrum” of student safety in a world where no one can afford to
operate in a silo. This year alone, the platform alerts helped us keep
70 students from self-harm or suicidal situations.
Assign one person to “triage” during the day. Last year, student
safety platform reviewed about 1 million pieces of documentation for
DPS. Most of those alerts went to Kellie Riley, who reviews each one
to determine whether further action is warranted. We call this process
“triage,” and in some cases the issues just come down to teenage
drama, swearing (for which students receive an automatic warning),
and even inappropriate quotes taken from books.
We definitely don't want all the stuff that we look at to be going to dispatch
or law enforcement. They have more important things to do than
investigate why someone put a picture of a marijuana leaf on his drive.
Make it a 24/7/365 effort. DPS’ dispatch center monitors alarms
throughout the night and sends out officers to do wellness checks on
students as needed. The center also handles any alerts that come in
overnight, taking over after Kellie leaves for the day (she doesn’t work
24/7), and monitors Safe2Tell (an anonymous tip line in Colorado
that both students and parents use for critical incidents).
The latter provides another way for school districts to get information
when kids are being bullied, when they're depressed or suicidal,
or when they’re threatening to harm others. Combined, our layered
approach ensures that we never have any single point of failure; we
have multiple safety nets, and we have redundancies.
Finally, we partner closely with our mental health professionals
who share their documents on suicide risk reviews and threat assessments.
Anytime we get either a Safe2Tell or a Gaggle alert the first
thing we do is reference that sheet to determine the child’s suicide
risk review. That way, we can inform the responding officer and
ensure that he or she has the most current information. By combining
this level of detail with our layered approach to student safety, we’re covering the bases in our digital world.
This article originally appeared in the July August 2020 issue of Campus Security Today.
Kellie Riley is DPS’s student safety specialist.
Melissa Craven is director of emergency management at Denver Public Schools Department of Safety.