Meeting Today’s School Safety Challenges
Giving staff a voice to ensure employees have healthy working conditions
- By Michael Sander, Tom Strasburger
- October 01, 2019
Sustaining a safe environment for students and staff is—or at
least should be—a key priority for all school districts. However,
without a comprehensive plan in place, this can be a challenging
endeavor. From managing ever-changing regulatory
compliance requirements and ensuring the proper communication
channels are in place, to training staff and creating an overall
school culture rooted in safe practices, there are a lot of factors that
district leaders need to address as part of an effective safety plan.
Franklin City Schools in Franklin, Ohio faced its own challenges
with school safety before creating an effective, well-planned and comprehensive
approach to school safety that it could sustain long term.
The town is home to over 11,000 people and located in the fast-grow-ing Cincinatti-Dayton-Springfield area. Franklin's school district
itself features one high school, a junior high school, five elementary
schools and an early childhood center. The following best practices
helped the district move from reactive to proactive in addressing any
potential concerns while ensuring a safe teaching and learning environment
for its more than 3,000 students and 300 staff members.
Give All Staff a Voice
The journey to creating a comprehensive safety plan at Franklin City
Schools started after an audit by the Public Employment Risk Reduction
Program (PERRP), which ensures public employees in Ohio
have safe and healthy working conditions. This audit, which was initiated
by a group of teachers in response to safety concerns at an aging
school building, revealed additional compliance issues and ultimately
cost the district more than $100,000 in investment. The district went
on to address the issues in a timely manner.
In addition to the compliance issues, the audit process notably
revealed that teachers often felt like their voices weren’t being heard as
building principals were the only ones who could file safety complaints.
For example, a teacher might mention a loose hand rail or chipping
tiles to their principal, but it was up to the principal to put in the
work order for the complaint. This was not always being done with
consistency or fidelity. The responsibility for creating and maintaining
a safe environment was too top-heavy at the administrative level.
Now, any staff member can put in a work order. By spreading out
the responsibility and giving teachers a voice in creating a safe work
environment, staff morale has improved. Staff appreciate working in
a safe working environment and having active ownership in sustaining
Provide Robust Training
In addition to now being able to submit a work order, all staff is
actively involved in enhanced safety training. This includes completing
online, district-specific training programs via the PublicSchool-
WORKS Online Staff Training System on regulatory compliance
mandates and board policies.
These courses can range from crisis prevention to state OSHA
regulations to accident reporting as well as safety training courses on
issues like bullying prevention, consequence management and
responding to food allergies. The district is intentional about not
making the amount of training too excessive so that employees
understand it is not busy work, but rather an essential component to
creating a safe school environment.
If an accident does occur during the school year, because of the
integration of training and the staff accident management system,
those involved are enrolled in and auto-notified to complete
retraining courses within the online system to help avoid further
incidents. Or, if the district sees the need rise in a certain safety
area at any point in the school year, it assigns specific training
courses as needed.
By providing robust training from the start, and continuing that
training throughout the school year, the district is saving money in
the long term on workers’ compensation and substitute teacher costs
that happen when a teacher is injured and out of the classroom. In
addition, the reduction of staff injuries has had a direct and positive
impact on student achievement.
Keep Good Data
Using an online system has made the district more efficient in a number
of administrative ways, in addition to making it easy for the staff
to complete training courses.
The district has been able to reduce paper and time spent chasing
training records, while maintaining more solid data, as all records are
now kept digitally. This is a stark comparison to when the district had
to manage paperwork that was eight to nine inches thick during the
Having accurate, consistent, and complete data is critical for documentation,
recordkeeping, analysis, and reporting. With an online
system, the district is able to easily track all the data, spot school or
employee trends, and be proactive in its intervention.
For example, if an employee is assigned a specific training course
and does not complete it by the deadline, the district leadership team
in charge of safety is alerted and that employee is sent follow-up
Each Monday at the district’s cabinet meeting, the leadership
team reviews training and incident data pulled from PublicSchool-
WORKS’ Staff Accident Management System. This data is proactively
monitored, and any potential issue is addressed before it
becomes a problem.
Get Extra Support
Implementing a comprehensive safety approach from the ground up
can be a big task—there’s a lot of research and development that goes
into the process before the training can even start. Choosing an outside
partner that is an expert in safety and regulatory compliance can
be a huge asset for a district.
Through the partnership with PublicSchoolWORKS, for example,
Franklin City Schools was provided a program management coordinator
who advised on and guided the implementation process and
ensured the district was meeting all federal and state regulations.
The district additionally has ongoing, around-the-clock access to
safety and compliance specialists, chemical safety specialists, and
technical support professionals via a staff hotline. Having experts
assist with the process and be readily available to answer any questions,
provides the district with reassurance that it is covering all of
its bases regarding a safe school environment.
The district's size and security needs are smaller compared to those
of a large metropolitan district, and it is likely that those larger disticts
have more funds to spend on safety improvements for staff. But
Franklin's progress in this area demonstrates that partnerships can be
effective when any district, large or small, shows dedication to adjusting
its mindset about workplace safety and selects the right provider
or company to assist in its journey.
By creating a comprehensive safety plan and establishing a culture
where everyone is involved in and responsible for maintaining a safe
school environment, Franklin City Schools has significantly reduced
the number of incidents in its district. This past school year, there
were only six minor safety incidents which equated to six days of
employees missing school time—nearly two-thirds less than two
In addition to this being an indicator of successful training, it
means that teachers are in the classroom more often, which
improves student achievement—something that is the collective
goal of all educators.
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.