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What Keeps You Awake At Night? Defining The Appropriate Scope Of A Campus Safety Audit

[May 13, 2013]  These days, I hear Business Officers, Heads and other educational leaders struggling with identifying the appropriate scope of a campus safety audit. So I thought I would try to help.

The threshold question is whether every school needs to conduct a safety audit this summer. In light of the numerous recent traumatic events in our educational community, and in the world around us, I do believe that it is appropriate for the Head and other school leaders to spend at least a few hours discussing safety on campus, prior to the opening of the school year in the fall. Does this mean that each school must engage an outside vendor? Does this mean that each school must spend hundreds of thousands of dollars that were not budgeted and are likely not available? Not necessarily.

The most important first step is to examine the likelihood of certain risks on campus. This can be done quite quickly. Often, I use the short-hand technique of asking administrators: “what keeps you up at night?”  If you go around the table and ask this question of each school administrator, you will quickly pinpoint certain real risks on campus.

Alternatively, we work with schools to define the appropriate scope of a safety audit through use of a questionnaire. We have developed a comprehensive document that allows us to quickly, within 45 to 90 minutes, identify the greatest risks on campus. This document can be used as a blueprint for prioritizing each school’s focus areas.

In sum, while I do believe that every independent school needs to spend a few hours examining campus safety this summer, it need not destroy the school’s budget.  Frankly, this would probably be wise to do every summer.

As you embark on this journey, consider the following contenders for top safety audit priorities:

  • Crisis management plan (if you have one, be sure it’s been vetted by experienced education counsel, as the vendors do not consider the legal ramifications of  plans; not even former and current law enforcement personnel);
  • Background checks;
  • Trip compliance; and
  • Campus safety and security (locks, security personnel, emergency notification system, etc.)

Finally, try to focus on the risks that are most likely to occur, as opposed to the worst-case scenario risks that are highly unlikely.  Budgets are limited and prioritizing is essential.

Final note: be 100% sure that counsel is involved in this prioritizing process, so that the entire process can be cloaked in the attorney-client privilege to the extent permissible in each state.

As always, please do not hesitate contact us with any questions.

The Strategy for Safety In Independent Schools

[January 8, 2013] In light of the tragic events that took place at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, many schools are evaluating their safety policies, procedures, and crisis management plans.  If your independent school is currently evaluating its safety-related policies and is in need of helpful resources, please e-mail me for a complimentary copy of our firm’s safety audit checklist and crisis management plan checklist.  Additionally, the most recent issue of the Independent School magazine, published by the National Association of Independent Schools, includes a timely article written by Sara Goldsmith Schwartz regarding the nuts and bolts of safety audits.  To read the article in its entirety, please see here.

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Please do not hesitate to contact us if your independent school is seeking assistance with conducting safety audits or improving its crisis management plan.