PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS refers to the ability of Public Health Agencies, healthcare systems, communities, and individuals to
PREPARE for, RESPOND to, and RECOVER from public health emergencies like natural disasters, infectious disease outbreaks, acts of bioterrorism, or any other event that affects the lives of every Idahoan.
One goal of the Idaho State Department of Education is to increase district and school capacity to establish and maintain a positive education climate, with emphasis on a safe learning environment and the intellectual, physical, social and psychological well-being of every child.
Current Work on School Safety and Security:
In January 2013, in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna convened a group of stakeholders to take a renewed look at school safety and security across Idaho. Idaho first took a comprehensive look at school safety and security in 2007, with support from the Idaho Legislature. In addition, Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter has appointed Colonel Jerry Russell, retired Idaho State Police director, to work with the Idaho State Department of Education in assessing safety and security across Idaho and making recommendations for improvements.
Superintendent Luna requested funding from the Idaho Legislature to fund the work of the Idaho School Safety and Security Stakeholder Group in the coming year. The group is made up of representatives from education, law enforcement, and first responders. The group has met regularly since January and expects to have recommendations prepared for the 2014 Legislature.
Stakeholder Group Guiding Statements:
The Idaho School Safety and Security Stakeholder Group has identified the following statements to guide its work.
- To identify the critical infrastructure, resources and action steps (statewide plan) to create a culture of readiness to prevent and respond to crises in every school community in Idaho.
- To build capacity for local jurisdictions to effectively prevent and respond to their unique crises situations.
- To assure every student, parent and staff member feels safe in Idaho schools.
Stakeholder Group Determination Statements:
The Idaho School Safety and Security Stakeholder Group has identified the following determination statements regarding concerns it is working to address.
- There is a wide variance in the level of attention and preparation for school safety and security issues in the school districts and charter schools across the state.
- Valid and reliable information on the current status of school safety and security in schools across the state does not exist.
- Ownership and responsibility for school safety and security at the state and local district level has been nebulous and not well defined.
- The availability of Idaho specific school safety data, best practices information, training and assistance is limited.
- The majority of districts in the state lack the resources (expertise, personnel and funding) to establish meaningful and sustainable school safety and security improvement.
The Idaho School Safety and Security Stakeholder Group has identified the following determination statements for strategies it will use to address concerns and develop recommendations.
- School security is a subset of the much wider subject of school safety and requires a comprehensive approach.
- School districts must work more closely with their first responder community in the planning process to maximize the effectiveness of any response.
- Solutions must balance empowering local decision-making and establishing a baseline of statewide uniformity.
- School safety includes violence prevention, school climate and drug and alcohol issues.
- A common, valid and reliable threat assessment / school safety audit tool, with an accompanying rubric, is the starting place to address school safety and security statewide.
- Local safety plans should be crafted based on the strengths / deficiencies of the threat assessment.
- A state-level repository for best practices, research, technical assistance and training would address some of the greatest needs among districts.
- A dedicated funding source for state and local activities must be established to sustain efforts and maintain attention on school safety & security.
- Existing state-level activities and infrastructure must be leveraged to support school safety efforts (communications, building safety inspections, etc.).
- Safety and security plans must be NIMS, ICS and THIRA compliant.
- An awareness campaign to increase community involvement and buy-in must be part of the strategy.
Critical Considerations Regarding Trustees Authorizing School Staff to Carry Weapons
The decision to authorize school staff to carry weapons on campus can have significant, unintended consequences and requires thorough discussion and preparation to determine if the benefits outweigh the risks. Idaho Safe and Secure Schools Task Force has identified the following actions and decision points to be addressed prior to authorization of weapon carrying among school staff:
- Consultation with the district insurance carrier to determine applicable policy changes and associated costs.
- Identification of the rules of engagement (for what purposes is it appropriate to brandish the weapon?).
- Identification of enhanced training required of those authorized to carry weapons on campus (training should be ongoing, not a one-time event).
- Consultation with local law enforcement to inform the decision to authorize school staff to carry weapons.
- Consultation with parents to inform the decision to authorize school staff to carry weapons.
- Clarifications of expectations (through policy) of the actions of authorized school staff when in contact with law enforcement personnel.
- Identification of psychiatric screening measures to ensure the sound mental health of staff authorized to carry.
- Determination of requirements to ensure weapon security and retention- security and retention measures prevent unauthorized access and use of the weapon.
- District policy should specify which specific staff member(s) are authorized to carry weapons, and should identify the specific the weapon(s) to be carried. The amount, location and security of ammunition should also be addressed.
*The decision to authorize school staff to carry weapons on school campus in Idaho rests with locally elected school boards per section 18-3302D(4)(f), Idaho Code. Absent extenuating circumstances, the Idaho Safe and Secure Schools Task Force does not recommend the authorization of school staff to carry weapons on campus for school safety / security purposes.
- Aftermath- potential lifelong trauma associated with the taking of life
- Friendly fire- increased risk of injury / fatality due to multiple weapons in play
during crisis situation
- Burden of ongoing training to maintain proficiency with a weapon in a crisis situation
- Parental Right to know which staff is carrying may be divisive
- Parental / community concern regarding armed school staff
- Lack of clarity regarding liability for personal injury and property damage resulting
in firearm use among those authorized
- Potential increase in school personnel seen as targets by perpetrators of school
- Conflicts in loyalty may emerge regarding board expectations and personal conviction
/ administrator expectations
- Increased ability to defend against a perpetrator until first responders arrive
- Serves as a deterrent to potential perpetrators (if publicized)
- May serve as a force multiplier for first responders
History of Safe and Secure Schools in Idaho
In FY 2008, the public schools budget included $150,000 to fund the Safe Schools Study and a report to the Legislature. The Legislature has allocated $100,000 in the FY 2009 public schools budget for the Department to continue work on improving school security in Idaho. In 2007, the state published the results of the Statewide Safe and Secure Schools Assessment. As a result, the state took the following next steps:
- Created an Idaho-specific Crisis Response Plan Guide and provide training to implement the guide statewide
- Standardized statewide school security measures
- Developed a statewide vendor identification system
- Secured federal funding for security upgrades
2013 Annual Superintendents Meeting
The Idaho Emergency Operation Planning Guide For Safe and Secure Schools
The U.S. Department of Education's (ED) Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (OSDFS) is pleased to announce the release of the "NIMS Implementation Activities for Schools and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)."