While we’ve all been impacted by COVID-19, educators have been hit especially hard by the changes brought on by the pandemic. They’ve had to navigate a tumultuous and ever-shifting landscape, moving from in-person learning to virtual learning, to hybrid learning, then back again to in-person classes. They’ve had to navigate changing recommendations around vaccines, social distancing, isolation and quarantine, mask mandates, and other safety measures. All while managing anxieties about their own health and the health of their students.
After giving up lunch breaks and planning periods to cover for colleagues due to staff shortages, teachers and staff are now expected to return to normal. But the “new normal” is nothing like the old. With the return to in-person learning after extended periods of virtual learning, teachers are reporting an increase in behavioral incidents and threats, requiring schools to consider the implementation of an improved school safety plan that can help equip teachers and staff with the fastest and easiest way to get help in an emergency, from the every day to the extreme.
Teachers report that they are receiving more threats and witnessing more acts of violence than in the pre-pandemic days: EducationWeek.org shares that almost half of school districts are receiving more threats and acts of violence than they have since 2019. CENTEGIX, the maker of the CrisisAlert solution that supports teachers and staff in emergencies, analyzed CrisisAlert usage data to best understand the incidents teachers encounter on a day-to-day basis. Findings indicate everyday behavioral incidents have nearly doubled from the fall of 2021 to the spring of 2022.
A teacher in Georgia shares that two students got into a fight as they were walking to the gym. A teacher in Florida remembers a student running from the building to avoid facing the consequence of an earlier incident at recess. A teacher in Texas reports a student becoming destructive, throwing their journal and screaming, preventing the other students from learning.
School Safety Plans and Incident Response
CENTEGIX surveyed staff who had used their wearable safety solution to call for help to understand how they would get help before having the badge. We found that teachers would have to rely on the help of a nearby teacher or send a reliable student to find another staff member. The risks of this include:
- Sending another student for help takes significantly longer than using the CrisisAlert badge
- No direct communication between teacher and staff member leads to the possibility of miscommunication surrounding the details of the incident
- Teachers are left feeling alone and vulnerable, unaware of whether help is on the way
- Possibility of school administrator in a meeting, out of the office, or otherwise unreachable
- Student messenger panic or other insurmountable obstacles
One teacher says: “It is so fast and effective when you are in a high-stress situation. You don’t have to also try to communicate what you need on a radio, cell phone, or intercom. I also love that it knows exactly where you are.”
Landlines, intercoms, and panic buttons can only be employed if the incident occurs in the classroom. CENTEGIX analysis of incidents in the 2021-2022 school year found that only 50% of them occurred in the classroom. If a teacher or staff member must leave the other students to go to the nearest wall phone or panic button or rely on a trusted student to do the same, the teacher, staff member, and other students are left vulnerable and alone.
One teacher recalls an incident that occurred far from the classroom: “Students were involved in a physical altercation on one of the remote playing fields. The staff present could not stop the incident without assistance. In the past in these situations, I would have had to radio for assistance and keep struggling to defuse the situation. But with a press of my CrisisAlert badge, multiple staff members quickly assisted us. The quick response kept the situation from getting totally out of hand and class was able to continue.”
It’s tempting to rely automatically on cell phones instead of landlines, but cell phones carry their own risks. Cellphones are unreliable. Assuming the staff member has their cellphone easily accessible, unlike female teachers wearing dresses or skirts without pockets, in high-stress situations staff has to remember what number to call and do so quickly and accurately the first time. There is not always good coverage across campus, and calls and notifications can easily be missed by the recipient. Most school districts do not provide cell phones to their staff, and asking teachers and staff to use personal devices for work matters can cause privacy concerns for teachers and staff and security concerns for student and school information.
“The first time I used the badge, a student asked to go to her locker. A few minutes later, one of my students came running and told me that she was passed out in the hallway. Sure enough, the student was on the floor, unresponsive. The admin responded promptly. It is easy to use and makes me feel safe. If a fight breaks out or there is another emergency situation, I know I always have this badge on me, whereas I might not have my phone or another student to send for help,” shares one teacher about her experience with the CrisisAlert badge.
Teachers, like all of us, deserve to feel safe at work. Overall, many risks can be eliminated or minimized for teachers with the implementation of a comprehensive school safety plan and updated school staff safety/emergency response training that utilizes mobile panic buttons.
How a Culture of Safety Helps Retain Teachers
Teachers are leaving the profession at rapid rates. A survey conducted by the National Education Association found that 55% of educators are planning to leave the profession earlier than they expected.
Some of the reasons cited for leaving the profession:
- 91 percent say that pandemic-related stress is a serious problem.
- 90 percent say feeling burned out is a serious problem.
The need to create a positive school environment and culture where students can learn and thrive and teachers feel safe, supported, and empowered is more important than ever. Teachers can’t focus on teaching, mentoring, and supporting their students when they’re fearful for their safety and the safety of the children they are responsible for.
Implementing Mobile Panic Buttons Districtwide
Legislators recognize the power of mobile panic buttons as a part of an overall school safety plan. Multiple states are beginning to require school safety plans that require the use of mobile panic buttons. In 2020, Florida passed Alyssa’s Law, which requires all Florida public schools, including charters, to implement a mobile panic alert system. Texas is evaluating passing a version of this law. This underscores the severity of the issue of security in schools and the safety concerns for vulnerable teachers, students, and staff. This also demonstrates that legislators acknowledge mobile panic alert systems as a best practice when it comes to school safety plans.
Benefits of the CrisisAlert Badges for School Safety Plans
Experience teaches us that safety incidents will occur in schools. In an urgent situation, humans are best at taking simple, straightforward action. Complex instructions, on the other hand, can paralyze us in critical moments. Even with special training, humans are the least reliable element in any incident response plan. We’re more likely to look at each other for reassurance rather than take a decisive step. At best, this all-too-human reaction costs precious seconds during an incident. At worst, it can lead to injury and even cost lives.
The CrisisAlert badge is the fastest and easiest solution to a school safety plan for teachers and staff to call for help in an emergency. It is an empowering tool that helps teachers and staff to respond quickly and confidently.
The CrisisAlert badge is direct. The school or district can create alerts to send notifications to specific people. This allows for more consistent and comprehensive school staff safety response by assigning people to codes and implementing clearly defined steps in regards to how to respond to each alert. This takes away the added pressure on a teacher to devise a solution in the middle of an emergency. They can know the right person is being notified and will immediately be on the way to assist them, freeing the teacher to focus on the situation at hand and letting the teacher always be equipped with the support they need and deserve.
CrisisAlert offers a clear and persistent notification when a teacher in distress signals for assistance. Think of the Amber Alerts you receive on your phone. CrisisAlert notifications cannot be missed like a text or a call, ensuring that help will come, and come quickly.
CrisisAlert is discreet. Traditional ways of calling for help often escalate behavior issues, conflicts, or other delicate situations. As mentioned above, in the spring of 2022 84% of incidents where teachers or staff used the badge were everyday student behavior issues. A teacher can employ the CrisisAlert button calmly, without drawing attention to themselves or further upsetting a student.
When an alert is delivered, the receiver knows it’s important and demands immediate attention. Unlike a cellphone, where a text or call for help during an ongoing emergency can get muddled up with everyday emails or texts about what’s for dinner, they are quite clearly emergency alerts. The receiver knows it is a crisis that demands an immediate response.
Teachers deserve modern solutions to their concerns for their safety and the safety of those around them to facilitate a school environment with positive learning outcomes for every student. We count on our teachers to provide our youth with the tools for tomorrow. They should be equipped with the best tools available to accomplish their essential mission in a safe and secure environment.
Whether facing dangerous weather conditions, medical emergencies, threatening student outbursts, elopement, or any disruption that prevents them from fulfilling their responsibilities in a safe and comfortable environment, teachers, students, and staff members deserve the peace of mind CrisisAlert brings to the classroom and anywhere else on campus.