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When it Comes to Student Safety, Keep Your Parents Informed

When it Comes to Student Safety, Keep Your Parents Informed

Never has it been more important to keep your parents informed when it comes your students' safety and the security of your buildings. It seems like every week, we hear about another shooting or threat of one in yet another community, and parents want to be reassured that when their children are at school, you are taking all precautions for their security. They also want to feel confident that you will always inform them when incidents occur that could threaten that security.

Yet surprisingly, some school leaders choose to delay or even forego communicating critical information to their parents. Whether they deem it a violation of FERPA, they're scared of the potentially negative PR for the school or they don't feel it necessary to alert parents, not informing parents of any type of threats against students' safety is the absolute worst thing a school leader can do. As the leader, parents have placed their trust in you, and you are violating that trust, which is terribly difficult to regain once you've lost it.

So how should you communicate a threat with your parents?

  • As soon as you are made aware of the threat and if you have to place your school on lockdown, send out a notice to parents. Let them know the school is actively handling the situation. Even if you do not have to place the school on lockdown, still let them know you are handling the matter. Make sure to provide as many details as you can and offer to meet with them or take their phone calls to reassure them of their concerns.
  • If necessary, provide regular updates on the situation to keep them apprised.
  • Make sure you post the updates on all appropriate communication channels.
  • Use the situation as a teaching moment to work with parents to talk with their children about the seriousness of making threats.

REMEMBER: if students know about the threat, parents will hear about it. And if rumors about the threat show up on social media, talk will spread like wildfire. After that, your phone will more than likely start ringing off the hook and you'll probably have parents showing up at your office rather unhappy that they were not informed of the situation.

Trying to hide a situation from parents is never a good thing. It will only break trust, and when schools should be attempting to be as transparent as possible, building a wall between your parents and your community is one of the worst possible decisions you could make.

If you are a new school leader or you are just unsure of how to handle a particular situation, please contact me. I am happy to help provide guidance and wording on any or all communications that need to be delivered to your communities.

Sarah Julian

Director, Communications

Sarah serves as the Director of Communications for the OPSRC. In this role, she provides support, consultation and training on a variety of critical tools and PR functions, including communication plans, social media policies, crisis communications, media relations and website content.

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