Thursday, January 28, 2016

7 Tips to Keep Students Safe this Spring Semester

Students returning to campus after the holiday break will be excited to be back at school. Students returning to campus after the holiday break will be excited to be back at school.
Protecting students on campus smacks as an obvious responsibility of colleges and universities. However, complacency is a natural human trait. All it takes for a successful semester to be shattered is a lapse in safety protocol or gap in legal requirements.

We’ve laid out 7 reminders and tips to keep students safe. The weeks leading up to their return and the first few days of the semester are the best to review policies and educate students.

7. Publish Crime Statistics

The Clery Act mandates all colleges and universities to publish and distribute their Annual Campus Security Report by October 1st. Schools should notify students when they return to campus that the report is available to them either via a URL, if available, or how they can obtain a print copy.

Schools should also make sure crime logs are available and up to date as the Clery Act requires the logs to have the most recent 60 days’ worth of information. Furthermore, the Act requires schools to give timely warnings of crimes that represent a threat to the campus community.

6. Smartphone Apps

Your students may already be aware of the multitude of safety apps available for smartphones or maybe not. Proactive schools can list and provide download links to select safety apps on the appropriate website, preferably alongside the Annual Campus Security Report.

Some popular safety apps include:
  • RapidSOSRapidSOS, which uses Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to send critical data to emergency dispatchers when cell signals jam.
  • LiveSafeLiveSafe, a crowdsourced crime app that students can report incidents by attaching photos and videos and allows other students to view on a map.
  • Kitestring lets students walking alone to enter destination information, including estimated arrival. If the arrival time elapses, a notification is first sent to the student. If the student doesn’t response, the app will alert emergency contacts.

5. Safe Ride Programs

While not all schools provide free, safe ride options, the service is particularly welcomed by young women on campus and its mere existence conveys to students that the school has their best interests at heart.

Budgetary restraints may make a free ride share program unfeasible. However, schools and universities can seek partnerships with local transportation providers.

4. Campus Alert System

Colleges and universities should test their campus alert systems to confirm that timely warnings of campus threats can be disseminated effectively and efficiently. Additionally, the Clery Act requires emergency notifications when a significant emergency or dangerous situation is confirmed and presently occurring.

Schools should test their versions of reverse 911 calls, campus-wide text and email notifications or anything communication service. The notification system must be well received by students with disabilities, including vision or hearing disabilities.

3. Good Samaritan Law—Drugs

Massachusetts’ heroin epidemic is well documented and the drug is devastating kids of all races, gender and backgrounds. Yes, heroin is probably on your campus.

Schools MUST make sure students are aware of Good Samaritan drug laws. Massachusetts General Law Section 34A provides people seeking medical assistance for someone experiencing a drug-related overdose with immunity from being charged or prosecuted for possession of a controlled substance.

Schools should even go a step further and provide resources for a student who feels they have been charged improperly under the law.

2. Campus Rape Prevention

Students returning to campus after the holiday break will be excited to be back at school, see their friends and, yes, party. Colleges and universities must reiterate their zero tolerance policy for campus and date rape, especially when alcohol is involved.

Male students should be reminded of the serious life consequences that result and that ‘No’ means no. Male students should also be encouraged to speak up and not sit idly by when witnessing such situations.

Female students should have safe and receptive channels to report incidents of sexual assault and rape. Those female students should also know that their reports will be investigated, thoroughly.

1. Active Shooter Plan

Every school should review and evaluate their Active Shooter Response Plan before students return from break. Since 2013, over half of all school shootings have occurred in the first six calendar months with 22 shootings in the month of January, alone.

While most every school across the country has held active shooter drills and revamped their response plans, the FBI recommends working with their community partners including first responders, emergency managers, public health officials, mental health officials and local governmental officials.

The FBI lays out its recommendations in, “Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans.” You can view and download the pdf here.

When classes start, students’ attention will be directed towards their studies and extracurricular activities.

The first few days of the semester is the most effective time to capture the study body’s attention and remind them of the safety resources available to them. «