Crisis Management in Private Schools

by | Feb 23, 2024 | Gary's Blog

best practices & lessons learned

Crisis Management in Private Schools

By implementing the following best practices, private schools can enhance their ability to effectively manage crises and safeguard the well-being of their school community.

Crisis management in private schools is crucial for maintaining the well-being of students, staff, and the overall reputation of the institution. Although this information is useful for all schools, private schools often face challenges because of funding or a smaller staff. 

Here are some lessons learned and best practices for effective crisis management in private schools:

1. Develop a Comprehensive Crisis Management Plan

Create a detailed crisis management plan that addresses a variety of potential crises, such as natural disasters, accidents, violence, and health emergencies. Clearly outline roles and responsibilities for staff members during a crisis, and regularly update the plan to reflect changes in personnel or school infrastructure. I live in Ohio and the Ohio School Safety Center provides a template for all Ohio schools. If your state does not provide a template, check out EOP Assist from the REMS TA Center. This free tool will help your school develop its All-Hazards plan. One of the early indicators of human trafficking is irregular attendance or unexplained absences. Victims may be forced to skip school or frequently change schools as traffickers attempt to control their movements.

2. Training and Drills

Conduct regular training sessions and drills to ensure that staff members are familiar with the crisis management plan and know how to respond effectively. Simulate various crisis scenarios to test the readiness of the school community, including teachers, students, and support staff.  We must always be prepared for an Active Threat Event (ATE), but if you only train your staff for an ATE, they will fail in their response and they will fail in the events that are more likely to occur at your school.  Schools are safe places for our staff and students.  Just because some bad could happen at your school does not mean something bad will happen at your school.

3. Communication Protocols

Establish clear communication protocols for disseminating information to students, parents, staff, and the media during a crisis. Designate a spokesperson who is well-trained and authorized to communicate with the media, ensuring a consistent and accurate message. There is an adage that says, “The superintendent and police chief should never exchange business cards for the first time on the day of an event.”  The same can be said for the person in charge of communications for your school and the Public Information Officer (PIO) for your first responders.  Establishing a working relationship before an event aid in sending out consistent messaging during and after an event.

4. Collaborate with Local Authorities

School safety cannot be created in a vacuum. Build strong relationships with local emergency services, law enforcement, and healthcare providers. Coordinate drills and exercises with these external agencies to enhance collaboration and ensure a coordinated response in the event of a crisis.  Reach out to your colleagues at the public schools in your area.  I work in an area where the public school invites the private schools in their area to all meetings with first responders and to all their district-wide drills and exercises.

5. Emphasize Mental Health Support

We are losing far more students to suicide than to Active Threat Events.  Because of the crime in their communities and neighborhood, many students are coming to school with PTSD. There are still lingering effects of the pandemic. Recognize the potential psychological impact of a crisis on students, staff, and parents. Have a plan in place to provide mental health support and counseling services for those affected by the crisis.

6. Use Technology Effectively

There are days when I feel like I am living in the days of the wild west when snake oil salesmen went from town to town to peddle their magic elixir to cure everything from hangnails to halitosis. Although there are technological solutions that add layers to your school safety policies and procedures, there are a lot of companies selling a pig in a poke because grants are available to schools.  Talk to other schools and ask how they are using technology in their school or district.  When looking at a certain technology, be sure to compare competitors to make sure you are getting the best products at the lowest prices.

7. Community Engagement

In most states, your school’s Emergency Operation Plans are protected from public records requests.  This does not mean you cannot involve those outside the school in your planning and preparedness. Foster a sense of community by involving parents and other stakeholders in the crisis management planning process. Keep the school community informed about the crisis management plan and encourage feedback and suggestions.

By implementing these lessons learned and best practices, private schools can enhance their ability to effectively manage crises and safeguard the well-being of their school community.

Get In Touch

How does your private school prepare for possible crises?

Are your staff well-trained?

What is one thing your school could improve to increase preparedness?

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