Abstract: Planning for a Crisis, but Preparing for Everyday: What Predicts Schools’ Preparedness to Respond to a School Safety Crisis? (Society for Prevention Research 27th Annual Meeting)

187 Planning for a Crisis, but Preparing for Everyday: What Predicts Schools’ Preparedness to Respond to a School Safety Crisis?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Seacliff C (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Catherine Bradshaw, PhD, Professor and Associate Dean for Research & Faculty Development, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Katrina J. Debnam, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Joe Kush, PhD, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Sarah Lindstrom Johnson, PhD, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Schools and policy makers have expressed increased concerns regarding school safety in response to the recent increase in school shootings (FBI, 2018). As such, school crisis planning has become a national priority. To better identify potential gaps related to crisis preparation, we analyzed 3 indicators of crisis response at 98 public schools (58 high; 40 middle): the posting of a crisis plan across 7 school locations, procedure for responding in a crisis, and process for notifying school staff of the activation of a plan. Data were collected by a trained assessor using a structured interview protocol (Sugai et al., 2004) with the administrators and 12 staff at each school; observations and document review of crisis information in 7 pre-specified locations within the school were also performed. These data were analyzed in conjunction with student- and staff-reported school climate data (Bradshaw et al., 2014), school demographic data, and external observations of the school.

Analyses of the 3 crisis plan indicators suggested that the biggest gaps were in regard to the process for notifying staff that a crisis was in place. Specifically, we assessed the percentage of staff within each school that was aware of the notification process (e.g., code word); in half of the schools (55.1%), all of the staff interviewed were aware of the notification process, whereas a quarter of the schools had just 80% or fewer staff aware of the notification process. When it came to knowing what to do (i.e., procedure), approximately 77.6% of schools had all staff who were aware of the procedure, whereas 7.15% of the schools had 90% or fewer staff who knew the procedure. With regard to the posting of the procedure in the 7 specified locations, 70.4% of the schools had the procedure posted in all locations, whereas 12.2% had the plan posted in 5 or fewer locations; the cafeteria and non-classroom activity space (e.g., gym, computer lab) were the locations where the plan was the least likely to be posted.

Schools with higher levels of school disorder (as rated by external observers as well as school archival data [e.g., suspensions]), along with high schools, and those with poorer reading and math scores were less likely to have the plans posted in all locations, know the procedure, and/or know the notification process. Multilevel analyses indicated that both student and staff perceptions of safety were significantly higher in schools in which the procedure was posted in all locations; however, perceptions of safety were unrelated to knowing the procedure or notification process. These findings provide compelling evidence of a link among school context, crisis planning, and school climate. Implications for professional development will be discussed.