One thing we notice regularly in our school safety, security, climate, culture and emergency preparedness assessment work are opportunities to improve the level of empowerment of school employees to improve school safety. From preventive actions to life and death decision making, we regularly see significant gaps that relate to the empowerment of school employees to protect themselves and others.
We also often see this in school safety litigation work, unfortunately, this is often after someone has been seriously injured or killed and school safety related lawsuits have been filed. I recall a risk management instructor relating a case from Utah where a school district settled a case for millions of dollars after a student died from a medical emergency. In this truly extreme case, the district’s superintendent had put a policy in place that no one in the district could call 911 without his permission. This policy had apparently been implemented because the superintendent had been embarrassed when he could not respond to a reporter who asked him why police had been called to a school because he was not yet aware of the situation. When a student stopped breathing, there was an extended delay in calling for an ambulance while the superintendent was located.
While this is an extreme example, it is far from the most deadly. There have been other instances where the response by public safety officials was delayed while school employees tried to locate an administrator to make a life and death decision.
These deadly delays can be made less likely through proper planning, structure, training and most of all by clear empowerment of school staff that they can summon life-saving assistance or take action to otherwise save when it is appropriate.