Delaware Schools Start Year with Comprehensive School Safety Plans in Place

Red Clay School Officials Join Governor to Celebrate School Safety Milestone

Newport, DE – Having worked with the General Assembly to make school safety improvements a top priority of the state, Governor Jack Markell recognized 2015-2016 as the first school year in which every Delaware public school is using a comprehensive safety plan to prepare for potential emergency situations, ranging from armed intruders to natural disasters.

Joined by Richey Elementary School principal Dotty Johnson, Red Clay School District Superintendent Merv Daugherty, Red Clay Public Safety Director Brian Moore, and Delaware Capitol Police Chief John Horsman, the Governor also highlighted new infrastructure upgrades made to enhance safety at Richey Elementary School. In 2012, Governor Markell signed the Omnibus School Safety Act, making Delaware the first state in the country to establish a formal statewide framework for comprehensive school safety plans, which brings all public schools under one common safety protocol.

“We all want to provide a safe and secure learning environment for our children and we have a sacred responsibility to be ready to respond when anything threatens it,” Governor Jack Markell said. “The advances made by our schools over the past few years means they are better prepared than ever before for a wide range of emergency scenarios.”

Superintendent Daugherty, Director Moore and Principal Johnson all touted the benefits of the school safety planning program and emphasized the importance of the safety initiatives implemented in district schools. At Richey Elementary, door locks and perimeter cameras were installed. The school also reconfigured its lobby to prevent direct entry into the school. All visitors are now directed into the school main office to gain access to the school interior. In addition, Red Clay has assigned a School Resource Officer or Constable to each of its schools.

“Red Clay parents trust us to keep their students safe and the tools provided through the Comprehensive School Safety Planning (CSSP) program are helping us do just that.” Daugherty said. “Having a comprehensive school safety plan that addresses various emergencies allows school officials to start the year focusing on what’s most important—educating its students.”

The Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security (DSHS) Capitol Police is charged with overseeing statewide comprehensive school safety planning. In 2012, DSHS implemented the Emergency Response Information Portal (ERIP), a web-based solution that serves as a central repository for all Delaware public and charter school safety plans. ERIP not only provides the tools and technology to help schools with the school safety planning process, but also contains numerous other school safety resources including threat assessments and online video courses.

In the past school year, CSSP Director Wendy Hudson worked with the school districts to make certain its schools met the State standards outlined in the Omnibus School Safety Act. Last fall Governor Markell strengthened this Act, accelerating the timetable for compliance and requiring all public and charter schools to complete two intruder drills and one tabletop exercise annually in addition to its school safety plan.

“The Red Clay School District and administrators like Mrs. Johnson, who are committed to the school safety planning process, make our work easier. They have embraced school safety from the start and remained vigilant,” Chief Horsman said. “Our children spend the majority of their day in school and it is imperative we work with administrators and provide them the tools needed to ensure the safety our students.”

As the school safety planning program continues to thrive, the next phase Red Clay started was making sure the first responders can have easier access to critical information before and during an incident.

“In Red Clay we have already begun a trial initiative with our colleagues at the State Police Troop 6, creating accounts for every trooper in the area so that they can have access to these fantastic tools as well,” Moore said.  “In reality anytime there is an emergency the school district cannot respond in a silo, but the entire emergency response community has to work together to insure the safety of the school and students.”


Governor Signs Bill to Accelerate, Enhance School Safety Efforts

Includes additional activities for schools to prepare for emergencies

Dover, DE – Building on his 2013 pledge that all Delaware schools would have a “state-of-the-art school safety plan” by the end of 2014, Governor Markell today signed legislation that requires schools to have a comprehensive and up-to-date plan by this month.HB340

House Bill 340 amends the Omnibus School Safety Act that Markell signed in 2012, which initially said schools and districts must, by September 2017, be in compliance with the Act’s provisions regarding preparation for potential emergency situations, ranging from armed intruders to natural disasters.

In his 2013 State of the State address, Markell said the initial five-year timetable in the Act was “a laudable goal, but we can do better.” Since then, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security (DSHS) has worked with districts to speed up their work and, currently, 78 percent of schools are ahead of schedule and have compliant plans.

“We have no more important obligation as a state than to ensure a safe environment in the places where our students learn,” said Markell, who signed the bill at Caesar Rodney School District’s W. Reily Brown Elementary School, where he was joined by state legislators along with school and district officials.

“This bill marks another important step in our never-ending process to ensure schools are as prepared as possible to protect their students and staff in any contingency. It has been impressive and gratifying to see the hard work by administrators and faculty throughout our state to make the two year timeframe possible and update all of their safety plans to the maximum extent.”

Plans must be thorough, coordinated with first responders, tailored to the layout and location of each facility, and compliant with the National Incident Management System, a framework for emergency response developed by the federal government that stresses collaboration with first responders.

“As a father with two boys who went to public school, there’s nothing more important than making sure they get a high-quality education in a safe and secure environment,” said the bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Darryl Scott, D-Dover. “This bill accelerates our efforts to ensure each and every school across the state has a school safety plan in place and that our teachers, administrators and emergency responders review and practice those plans regularly.”

In addition to completing the process of accelerating the development of school safety plans, HB 340 provides for school districts to conduct table top exercises annually and at least two lockdown/intruder drills per school year. They must submit verification of the exercises to DSHS.

“The Delaware public and charter school community have fully committed to providing their students with the most comprehensive and complete safety plans in the country,” said Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Lewis D. Schiliro. “The progress we’ve made is indeed a tribute to the dedication and perseverance of our teachers, administrators, school personnel and our public safety partners.  As a parent and grandparent, we should all be thankful for what they have accomplished.”HB340

Tabletop exercises allow school officials to work through their plans to identify any possible gaps and make adjustments, and intruder drills allow school faculty, staff, and administrators, as well as students, to become more familiar with procedures and expectations so the response becomes second nature.

“We are pleased W. Reily Brown Elementary School was selected as the site for the signing of HB340,” said Caesar Rodney School District Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald.  “We are fortunate that Governor Markell, the state legislature and the Department of Safety and Homeland Security have made the safety of our students their number one priority in Delaware.  We look forward to continuing our relationship with Homeland Security, local law enforcement agencies and fire companies to ensure all of our schools have up-to-date school safety plans and conduct exercises to validate our plans.”

Photos from the event