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The Need for School Crisis and Safety Team Training

Schools play a critical role in crisis prevention and response, meeting not just the needs of students but also of staff, families, and often the local community. Indeed, as evidenced by crisis events over the past decade, schools are integral to an overall community crisis response in terms of providing a safe haven, disseminating information, identifying individuals at risk, providing mental health services, linking individuals with community services, tracking displaced families, supporting long-term recovery, and generally serving as a focus of normalcy in the face of trauma.

To serve this function, schools must have crisis plans and teams in place that encompass preparedness, prevention, response and recovery (PDF), both short and long-term. School safety and crisis teams must be adequately trained in terms of types of crises, systems, procedures, and the unique mental health needs that can arise as the result of a crisis. Plans also must be fully integrated into community emergency response efforts, including public safety, fire and rescue, and community health and mental service providers, as well as clearly communicated to staff, parents, and community leaders.

Embedded in all of these issues are:

  1. the mental health, risk/resiliency, and coping capacity of the individuals affected by crises, particularly students
  2. the unique opportunities and challenges presented by schools in preventing and responding to crises

As such, training for school safety and crisis teams must address crisis as a mental health as well as physical health and safety risk within the context of the school culture.