Failing to communicate school safety and crisis incidents to parents and the media in an effective and timely manner can become its own separate story. It can also put a dent in the credibility of a school district and its leaders from the superintendent to the building principal.
One reporter working on a story which questioned a school district’s communications on a gang-related threat asked me: At what point should schools communicate with parents and the media on specific school safety or crisis incidents?
My answer was simple: When the buzz has spread through the student cafeteria and teachers’ lounge, a half-dozen parents have arrived in your office, and reporters are on your phones, it is a little too late to get ahead of the communications curve.
Most schools across the country have some type of written emergency guidelines for dealing with different crisis situations. However, many schools do not have formalized, detailed crisis communications plans to guide school officials in the timely management of parent and media communications as a crisis incident unfolds.
Today’s world of social media has students, parents, media, and others in school communities engaged in rapid communications immediately as a crisis incident unfolds. School officials must be prepared to manage not only the crisis incident itself, but also the corresponding communication needs which build along with the incident.
Does your school have a solid plan for communicating with parents and the media in a timely, effective manner as a rumored threat or actual school safety crisis incident begins to unfold?