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Students Set the Pace in Learning About School Safety

By Becky Lewis
April  2013

That officer parked over there in his patrol car isn’t playing games on his smart phone. This school administrator sitting in her study after dinner isn’t updating her Facebook status. And the firefighter waiting for a call isn’t using his tablet computer to read the latest bestseller.

They’re all taking free online School Safety training offered by the International Association of Chief of Police, progressing through their selected modules at their own pace.

IACP and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), a program of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, recently launched a series of four introductory-level online school safety trainings. The modules – “Assessing School Safety,” “Forming Your Safe School Planning Team,” “Preparing for a School Crisis” and “Responding to a School Crisis” – provide guidance on creating or enhancing school safety and crisis response plans. The self-paced courses target law enforcement, school officials and allied stakeholders, and students can take one, all four or any other combination, in any order.

Kelly Burke, IACP’s Program Manager for Juvenile Justice and Child Protection, says the IACP began developing the program in early 2012 and did not create it as a specific response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14, 2012. Based on a two-day classroom training program called Partnerships for Safe Schools, IACP developed the online version in response to the ongoing financial struggle faced by many departments, particularly small and rural ones.  Many law enforcement agencies are doing more with less and are not able to release staff to attend classroom trainings – even IACP/OJJDP’s no-cost training.

“We wanted to present the training in a way that really engaged the user, so we partnered with a specialist in developing training and online curricula for law enforcement. It’s not a static PowerPoint webinar, it uses an interactive self-paced design,” Burke says. “It’s designed so it can be used at work, in the car, on smartphones and tablets as well as computers. We’ve been hearing about e-learning for a while, now we’re moving into ‘m[mobile]-learning.’ Instead of having to take eight hours of training in one sitting, this lets them break it down into what’s feasible with their schedules. However, they do have to complete all activities before they can advance to the next step and then finally get their certificate.”

One of those activities focuses on dealing with an active threat in a school, but the training also addresses other situations that might require establishment of an incident command post, such as an explosion in the chemistry lab, a student threatening to commit suicide, an abduction on school grounds or a vehicular accident on a nearby street.

“It covers all different types of school crises. Both the classroom and online trainings are based on the Federal Emergency Management Agency crisis model,” Burke notes.

Partnerships for Safe Schools has been delivered 39 times in the past 13 years to more than 1,700 law enforcement and school personnel from 32 states, the District of Columbia and the Bahamas. Based on the initial positive reaction, Burke feels the online component has been, and will continue to be, as worthwhile in terms of bringing school safety to many more practitioners.

The training also targets school administrators, other public safety professionals and community leaders who are involved in school emergency response, with one module specifically focusing on developing a safe school planning team: “We need to recognize who the stakeholders are. It takes more than law enforcement and emergency responders such as fire and EMS. It’s administrators, it’s teachers, it’s mental and behavioral health professionals, it’s faith-based leaders in the community, it’s neighbors who live near the school and more. They’re all stakeholders and the training can benefit all of them.”

For more information and to register, visit: http://elearning-courses.net/iacp.