Update on our efforts to keep students and staff safe
As we prepare for a stronger launch to virtual learning this fall, we are also continuing to plan for both a hybrid model and all in-person learning so we are as prepared as possible when it is safe to re-open buildings. School safety is at the heart of all of our plans, and we wanted to offer you a window into the work that took place to support safety through the 2019-20 school year, what systems and resources we have in place to support student safety during virtual learning, and where we are headed next.
Even though students and staff will not be in school buildings this fall, our commitment to safety remains our top priority. We know school closures are impacting many students and staff. In several areas our work to support student and staff safety is intensifying. We are grateful to the many community partners who are collaborating with us to keep our MMSD Family healthy, fed, and connected. If you or your child is struggling, we encourage you to access school district resources and community resources and reach out to your school if your child needs help.
Supporting student mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in high levels of stress for many. When this stress combines with existing mental health concerns and/or other sources of distress including race-based trauma, it becomes critical to provide a range of intentional supports. We are committed to delivering proactive school-based mental health supports that are culturally responsive and trauma-informed. This approach builds upon a safe and welcoming school environment, strong relationships, staff wellness, and student and family voice.
Tapping into students’ resilience and natural supports are powerful strategies for supporting a students' emotional wellbeing. Integrating a strengths-based approach across all of our school functions is a critical ingredient to meeting the potential increase in mental health concerns for our students.
During the 2020-21 school year, we will continue attending and responding to the mental health needs of our students. Our Student Support Teams (which includes School Counselors, School Nurses, School Psychologists, School Social Workers, and other Student Support roles) will continue partnering with teachers and families to provide needed academic and social-emotional learning support. We will also continue to partner with our local mental health agencies to continue our school-based mental health programs during virtual instruction.
Key elements of these supports include:
Strengthening the communication between teachers and student support teams.
Partnering with families by utilizing culturally responsive engagement strategies.
Delivering tiered supports through targeted screening, trauma-informed strategies, evidence-based interventions, and school-community mental health partnerships.
Creating inclusive school environments with positive climate and culture
The Welcoming Schools program continues to support 17 of our elementary schools through staff professional learning, curriculum, and inclusive practices and environments. This includes an area of focus around preventing bias-based bullying. We are working toward having all of our elementary schools become Welcoming Schools in the coming years. During virtual learning, Welcoming Schools is being embedded in the K-5 social-emotional learning resources for schools across the district. We have created a document with online read alouds of texts recommended by Welcoming Schools, including books recommended for discussing race and privilege with elementary age students. Additionally, Welcoming Schools offers virtual professional development modules for schools wishing to continue to create safe, inclusive school environments
We are proud to be one of 21 school districts in the country participating in the OUT for Safe Schools (OFSS) program. Beginning in the summer of 2019, MMSD staff have had the opportunity to take a series of trainings on specific ways to be an ally to LGBTQ+ youth. Staff who have completed the trainings wear OUT for Safe Schools badge along with their school ID badge so that students can recognize staff allies. During virtual learning, one way staff show their allyship is by including their preferred pronouns on their Zoom profiles.
Each of our schools works with a Central Office representative to help school teams reflect on their school's culture and climate survey results and make connections with other experts to help them address any specific needs they have.
We continue to collaborate with our students, families, and community partners in achieving the goals of the Behavior Education Plan, including promoting a culture of safety and belonging for all people in MMSD, and reducing disproportionally in exclusionary discipline.
Keeping students safe online
Securly 24 is a web filter on all district devices that alerts us within minutes if a student is searching for terms related to topics like self-harm or violence. In the 2019-20 school year, we expanded our use of Securly 24 district-wide and have refined our protocols for responding during the school day and after hours. We also updated our Suicide Risk Assessment and Violence Risk Assessment tools to better equip school teams to assess and support students. We monitor Securly 24 year-round.
Digital Citizenship is a set curriculum for grades K-12 that teaches students how to become good online citizens. The curriculum provides students with insight and knowledge into topics that range from internet security, relationships & communication, cyberbullying, self-image and identity, and digital footprints and reputation. As a district, each LMTS (Library Media Technology Specialist) is responsible for creating, in collaboration with classroom teachers, an approach for their students. As a curriculum for Digital Citizenship, we use either Be Internet Awesome or Common Sense Digital Citizenship.
Teaching consent and preventing physical and sexual violence
MMSD has been doing proactive work to prevent sexual violence in schools, as well as preparing schools to address any incidents that do occur; guidance will be included in our 2020-2021 District safety plan. On the prevention front, MMSD is working in a variety of ways to create a culture of consent and respect, and to teach students about healthy relationships. School curriculum across grades 4K through 12 addresses safe touches, healthy relationships, human growth and development, and other related subjects. Health teachers are now trained specifically on the topic of consent and how to incorporate that into their curriculum throughout the year. Each school has designated a Title IX liaison who attends quarterly training. The Title IX Coordinator, Coordinator of Progressive Discipline, and the Rape Crisis Center, collaborate to develop and deliver the training content.
Child Protection Unit is a curriculum of six lessons that teach students to recognize, refuse, and report unsafe situations. These developmentally appropriate lessons are the foundation for teaching about consent, physical and sexual abuse, and establishing assertiveness when refusing to engage in unwanted or unsafe situations (from abuse to alcohol use to finding a dangerous weapon). Last school year we received approval to expand the Child Protection Unit beyond our kindergarten through third grade students in order to bring the curriculum to grades 4 and 5 as well. These units are provided to students annually and reviewed, as needed.
Like other Dane County school districts, we have an agreement with Madison Police to work together to reduce youth arrests and citations under a grant from the Dane County Department of Human Services. The School Justice Partnership grant was intended to create an agreement that would identify “focus acts” or misdemeanors that students are getting arrested or cited for while on campus and put into place alternatives to arrest or citation. As of January 1, 2020, all MMSD youth aged 12-16 eligible for a municipal citation have been directly referred to Restorative Justice through the YWCA and will not be ticketed.
We are piloting a model involving Dane County Time Bank at La Follette High School that provides intensive restorative justice services promoting wellness, community-building, trust-building, sense of belonging, and sense of value and worth, to improve culture and climate at the school. Our continued partnership with Time Bank that allows them to support restorative justice practices in our high schools.
We continue to collaborate with community partners to advance Restorative Justice work throughout the district. We are currently creating a guidance document for schools, families, police, and partnerships about when schools call police and about when and where restorative justice options are available to students and families.
In the 2019-20 school year, all Principals and several Assistant Principals were trained in the Justice Involved Youth process. Learn more about the Youth Justice Process externally: Incident/LE to Metro Flowchart and internally: Court Notices: Initial Info to Planning Flowchart- 2019.
Emergency procedures, drills, safety assessments and plans
In March 2018, the Wisconsin Legislature enacted Act 143 to encourage school districts to analyze and improve emergency procedures and protocols. As a part of Act 143, districts are required to conduct annual school safety assessments, submit school safety plans, conduct school violence drills and train all staff on Mandatory Reporting of School Violence Threats. Learn more about our safety assessments, safety plans and other Act 143 requirements.
The MMSD District Safety and Security Team has guided work across the district and within schools focused on the commitment to ensuring a comprehensive approach to school safety that includes the areas of prevention, mitigation, response and recovery.
Wisconsin Act 143 requires an individualized safety plan for each school building. We submitted our first annual district and school safety plans to the Department of Justice - Office of School Safety (DOJ-OSS) in December, 2018 and submitted updated plans the following year. We review safety plans every year and make needed revisions to prepare for the upcoming school year.
The District Safety and Security Team continues to work closely with MMSD administrators, School Safety Assistants, the Madison Police Department, Madison Fire Department, Dane County Emergency Management, Wisconsin Safety and Security Coordinators Association, Dane County School Districts, MadisonTeachers Incorporated, Department of Justice, Public Health of Madison and Dane County and other districts across the state to continue to strengthen systems, protocols and training around school safety.
In the 2019-20 school year, the Standard Response Protocol was incorporated into our emergency procedures in line with guidance from the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Office of School Safety and national recommendations on school safety.
State law requires schools to conduct one school violence drill each year. In MMSD, this is a Lockdown drill. In the 2019-20 school year, Lockdown drills were held at schools, in partnership with the District Safety and Security Team and the Madison Police Department. Thoughtful preparation ensures structuring that drills are announced, trauma-informed, developmentally appropriate, and brief in nature.
Act 143 also requires school districts to train all staff on Mandatory Reporting of School Violence Threats. The new MMSD safety flip charts throughout the district include updated information for staff on mandatory reporting. All employees shall report if the person believes in good faith, based on a threat made by an individual seen in the course of professional duties regarding violence in or targeted at a school, that there is a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of a student or school employee or the public. In the 2019-20 school year, all staff received mandatory reporting of acts of school violence. The training will be reviewed annually along with other safety and security training at the start of each school year.
We have been working with the Department of Justice - Office of School Safety as they developed and will begin rolling out a statewide school threats to safety reporting system called Speak Up, Speak Out. We will be incorporating Speak Up, Speak Out into our staff and student training on safety. The reporting system is expected to launch in September.
Emergency medical response
All District schools and buildings are equipped with new automated external defibrillators (AEDs).
In the 2019-20 school year, we equipped all school health offices with a medical response bag for the health office to store emergency epinephrine and the Stop the Bleed kit (see next section). Evacuation ‘Go Bags’ allow for packing and transporting students emergency medications as well as necessary paperwork to provide for emergency medical care during a school evacuation. The health office ‘Red Binder’ which includes the health alert list, health conditions list, individualized health plans and CPR certified staff. The bag also includes the medication book, medications, and when available, walkie-talkies. We are incorporating use of the medical response bag into our annual training and drills for school critical response teams.
Additional staff training
Non-Violent Crisis Intervention training teaches staff techniques to prevent and diffuse escalating behaviors and how to respond to unsafe behaviors. All MMSD staff who interact with students completed this training in fall 2019, per Wisconsin Act 118 (replacing Act 125). As of February 2020, nearly 1,800 staff were trained.
In the 2019-20 school year, US Department of Justice STOP School Violence Prevention and Mental Health Training Grant allowed us to create a new 2-year position. The Coordinator of Cross Systems and Critical Response focuses on providing training and professional learning to secondary teams strengthening their response to critical incidents, ability to assess for safety, threat, and mental health crisis, and utilize early intervention strategies to promote a safe learning environment. This work will continue virtually through extended threat assessment trainings for school-based critical response teams using a virtual teaming model to assess student needs around mental health, self harm, suicidality, and violence risk. Critical incidents happening in the community during school closures and virtual learning will still be assessed and supported by a central office team in collaboration with school-based leaders and support staff.
Project ADAM Heart Safe Schools is a program that provides schools with the resources necessary for planning and implementing an emergency plan, with an emergency response team, to place into action in the incidence of a sudden cardiac arrest. So far 21 schools have received the official designation and an additional 11 are on track to have it by the end of this school year. By the end of 2020-21 school year, all schools will be designated and staff will be annually trained in Project Adam Heart Safe School.
STOP THE BLEED is a training program from the American College of Surgeons for staff to respond to life threatening bleeding that can happen in people injured in serious accidents or disasters. The lead nurses for the district are approved instructors for this program. Last year training was provided to all nurses, nursing assistants and security assistants. Customized STOP THE BLEED ® kits provide the necessary medical equipment to control life threatening bleeding.
MMSD and Badger Bus partnered to train all drivers and attendants at the beginning of the school year regarding positive behavior expectations and strategies for supporting students in learning safe bus behavior. MMSD also issued clarified and detailed guidance to Badger Bus and schools about the process for responding when behavior incidents occur on the bus. This guidance details bus suspension parameters as well as Behavior Education Plan responses. The Department of Student and Staff Support also shared lesson templates with schools for teaching positive bus behavior.
MMSD's traffic safety committee was reinstated in the 2019-20 school year. The committee includes representation from the MMSD, Madison Police Department, City of Madison, and the Healthy Kids Collaborative. The team meets monthly and addresses systems issues (e.g., plan for assessing the traffic safety at all schools) and immediate needs (e.g., an unsafe intersection).
Annually, schools self-assess their traffic safety plans and make revisions where necessary. For the 2020-21 school year this team has an ultimate goal to support all schools in developing and implementing a comprehensive, data-driven, traffic safety plan to include all facets of traffic around the school campus.
Technology and infrastructure upgrades
In the last year, MMSD has made considerable updates to our communication, monitoring and surveillance, and security systems. The following is a summary of the work.
Communications - Outdated phones throughout the District were replaced with multi-functional VoIP handsets. This complete overhaul of the phone system also included new wireless handsets in place at each school. The team plans to train schools to more fully utilize the functionality of the Informacast Software when school buildings re-open. This includes immediate mass notification, localized weather alerts, access control integration and more.
Monitoring and Surveillance - Additional surveillance cameras were installed. Particularly in outdoor areas, bus pick up zones, parking lots, playgrounds and other areas of the school grounds will enhance the ability to monitor the campuses. The camera systems at the high school have recently received upgrades software and supporting hardware. This allows for cloud-based control of camera access and a much more stable storage and retrieval environment.
Keys and IDs - The upgrades on door access and locking with an electronic system made a marked improvement in the ability to maintain interior and exterior security of the campuses. All classroom doors have new door hardware. All previously controlled exterior doors have new door hardware.
Special Areas - Coordination and collaboration with police and fire departments, to gain further understanding of community areas that pose unique and potential serious hazards, ie. chemical hazards, railroad crossing, etc. Student transportation and campus safety as it relates to vehicle traffic, pedestrian traffic and all other modes of transportation, is an area for further analysis and planning to ensure safe passage to and from school for our students.
General Exterior - Developing common signage across the district to properly and visibly display the most essential safety related information. Some schools have labeled the classroom windows in a way to be seen from the outside identifying classroom locations with a number to assist in the event of an emergency response with ‘first responders.”
Athletic events and other large events
In the 2019-20 school year, we convened a Cross Department Event Management Team. Working with school administrators, Madison Police Department, Madison Fire Department, and other agencies, the team gathers resources, identifies training programs, and works to improve emergency procedures for athletic events and other large events.