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Keeping schools safe: Lessons gleaned from the 2015 “PACE Day: Safe and Secure Schools”

PACE members attending the 2015 PACE Day: Safe and Secure Schools conference learned valuable information about the current school safety climate and had the opportunity to spend breaks networking with other professionals in the field. The entire day was designed with members’ needs in mind. “The most important part of this relationship is you, our members,” said Lisa Freiley, director of labor and PACE services for the Oregon School Boards Association, as she welcomed attendees to PACE Day.

PACE Day: Safe and Secure Schools aimed to equip attendees with the support, resources, network and motivation necessary to pinpoint and eliminate potential school safety issues. This year’s topics ranged from cyber security to managing crises to eliminating bullying to environmental design.

Secure information and keep students and staff safe online.

“Cyber-crimes impact us all,” said Michael Bazzell, computer security specialist and privacy consultant for ComputerCrimeInfo.com. As a former law enforcement officer, detective and FBI investigator, Bazzell has seen various high-tech criminal investigations, including online child solicitations, child abductions, cold-case homicides, terrorist threats and high-level computer intrusions.

“Your email account is your number one most important account; be sure to protect your assets,” Bazzell continued. “We need to stop relying on software to save us, and we need to take more proactive steps to train our employees to be diligent and counter these [cyber] attacks.”

For schools, data breaches can be devastating, both because of the threat to student information and the possibility that sensitive information can be leaked.

Using some recent examples of information breaches and cyber “hacking,” Bazzell walked attendees through some common cyber threats and how to protect against them. He also provided attendees with resources to secure their online assets, including a website designed to safely test the strength of passwords as well as a website that will indicate if an email address or website has been breached or otherwise compromised.

“The overall goal: don’t be the lowest-hanging fruit,” stated Bazzell. “Make a few changes. You’ll be hack-proof.”

Respond to and recover from school crisis situations.

“Every second counts,” said Cheri Lovre, director of the Crisis Management Institute. “If you only had three minutes, do you know what you’d say to someone who called you for advice during a crisis?” Drawing on years of experience managing crises, she proceeded to provide advice and resources that bridge the school-agency gap.

Create a school culture and climate that eliminates bullying.

“We can never lock it [bullying] out, legislate it away or punish it until it stops,” said Rick Phillips, executive director and founder of Community Matters. “Students are the ‘first responders’ in our schools. We have to wake up our courage and the courage of our kids to speak up and do something.” He also showed examples of successful restorative justice cases and explained how schools can implement programs to eliminate bullying.

Rick Phillips speaks at the 2015 PACE Day

Prevent crime and violence in schools through environmental design (CPTED).

Drawing on his depth of knowledge of Northwest construction policies and expert project management skills, Scott Rose, DLR Group’s principal for education, closed out PACE Day by showing school architectural plans that effectively protect students and staff. Slide after slide displayed how simple changes – such as strategically-placed fences, different colored floor tiles or additional breezeways – can make school buildings more secure.