State-Level Strategies for School Safety and Crisis Preparedness

Ken Trump is a four-time invited Congressional witness testifying on school safety and emergency preparedness issues, and he testified on the role of the federal government in bullying at a hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Ken has testified on school security and emergency preparedness to the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, Oklahoma School Security Commission, New Jersey School Security Task Force, National Governors Association, National Lieutenant Governors Association, National Association of Attorneys General, Council of State Governments, Education Commission of the States, and other public policy agencies.

Ken advises state leaders to avoid high-level, low-impact conversations and politicizing school safety to advance other agendas.  He believes state leaders must avoid fads and feel-good actions. He encourages state leaders to avoid skewed policy funding such as security-equipment only funding and focus on multi-pronged approaches.  Program funding should promote local flexibility due to the unique school and school-community contexts involved while avoiding overly prescriptive measures.

Recommendations for state-level consideration include, but are not limited to:

  • Avoid skewed focuses on funding security equipment and hardware through one-time, shot-in-the-arm grant funding or through laws that mandate specific physical security equipment and hardware in new construction and remodeling projects. An overemphasis on target-hardening, as it is often called, misses the target of comprehensive school safety and security public policy, programming, and funding driven by proven best practices.
  • Provide grant funding for local and countywide professional development training programs for educators and school support staff (bus drivers, secretaries, custodial, food services, etc.) on school security and emergency preparedness issues. Provide regional and statewide training on school safety policy and leadership geared to board members, superintendents, principals, elected community officials, and others directly impacting school and community policy-making and leadership.
  • Create and fund a state-level school safety specialist academy model that requires certified school safety specialists in every school district and provides initial certification training and annual recertification. Authorize and support county level school safety commissions for regional sharing of information, training, and related planning activities. Look to the State of Indiana’s School Safety Specialist Academy and county school safety commissions as models. Also look to the Oklahoma School Security Institute and its state school safety commission for pragmatic commission structure, focus, and recommendations.
  • Require school districts to create, maintain, and update school emergency preparedness guidelines and security plans with state-level auditing and accountability. Identify basic elements of plans but avoid creating lengthy templates or mandated emergency document formats. State templates and mandated document formats tend to be questionable in content, cumbersome and not user-friendly, burdensome and unnecessarily lengthy, inflexible, and a potential tool for litigation use against school districts more so than a tool for helping school officials at the school building and district levels.
  • Provide resources and training to local schools to strengthen behavioral and mental health intervention support for students.
  • Require schools to have school threat assessment teams, training, and protocols. Look to the State of Virginia for models in school threat assessment requirements and best practices.
  • Promote school safety reporting mechanisms for tips, hotlines, etc., along with support for schools to create cultures where students and others feel comfortable in coming forward to report threats, plots, weapons, etc.
  • Link education, homeland security/emergency management, justice, and mental health agencies and policy working groups at the state level. Avoid putting school safety policy and funding in homeland security or justice agencies alone as these departments, while well intended, typically lack an understanding of pK-12 child oriented settings and often try to force strategies and practices from other professional contexts onto school settings.
  • Improve school crime reporting requirements and related data collection.
  • Establish enhanced penalties for crimes committed in schools , on school grounds, and against school officials.

These recommendations and others presented to state leaders are based on our experience in working with school leaders, first responders, and school-community stakeholders for more than 30 years in all 50 states and internationally.

We believe that our state leaders can provide school officials the tools and resources to make their schools more safe, secure, and prepared to prevent, and if necessary to manage, school crisis incidents. For questions or additional information, contact Ken Trump directly at