As schools support the people and environments around students, students can focus on why they are in school—to learn.

A foundational aspect of learning is providing a safe and secure learning environment for students, but it also goes further than that. Students and their support groups need to believe that school is a safe place as well. If students perceive they are in a place of violence or bullying they spend more time worrying than learning.

Improving student learning and gaining trust through crisis communication

When a crisis hits, parents and the community need to know what is happening immediately. Parents want to know their children are safe, and community and family members want to know how they can help. Schools have to guide parents and the community in how to help or risk compounding the problem. This is why having a reliable mass notification system is so important. In minutes, parents can be notified of the situation, what to do, and maybe most important, what not to do.

Misinformation is common and can spread quickly on social media during a crisis. Schools need to keep tabs on this misinformation and serve as the official voice of the situation on social media. If a situation arises, make sure you’re posting correct information, coming from an official source. Even after you communicate the official message, parents and the community turn to social media to discuss it and discuss any unanswered questions. Actively listen and answer them, but don’t forget to provide answers via other communication channels as well. When parents, students and staff feel you are making them a priority, trust and community are fortified. With trust, learning can once again take it’s place at the forefront of their minds.

Promoting student safety by protecting social and emotional well-being

Safety and security also encompasses social and emotional well-being. Students deserve to feel comfortable at school so they can focus on learning and contributing to the learning environment.

When students are bullied or see another student bullied, they need a safe, official outlet to notify school and district leaders. An essential resource for this communication is a tip line. When schools promote and encourage the use of a tip line and actively manage the responses, even fake submissions, students can trust in disclosing sensitive information. Intervening on submitted tips is a strong indicator a school takes students’ social and emotional well-being seriously.

Inclusive schools help support students holistically as they mature. K-12 students are in a vulnerable stage of their lives. I witnessed this growing up when my brother stopped going to school for months due to anxiety. For awhile, I believed he was going to drop out. Because my parents and the school intervened he graduated and now attends college. Student anxiety is something we all should work together to decrease. Schools can become aware of hidden demographics who expend effort to fit into the culture of their school by collecting feedback on a regular basis through surveys and social media.

We encourage you to have a presence on social media, to gather information and react, as well as cultivate the culture of your school. Denton ISD does a great job of creating a fun atmosphere on social media, interacting with students and parents in a way that says, “We hear you, understand you and celebrate you.” This sets the tone for a socially and emotionally secure culture for students.

When parents and the community feel heard and engaged, anxieties are assuaged and trust is built. When trust is felt, they will work more closely with schools to support students along their educational journey.

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