Task force subcommittee calls for uniformity in school safety responses

A subcommittee of Gov. Brad Little’s K-12 task force is calling for the state to adopt a few common, standardized school safety responses.

The school facilities and safety subcommittee voted unanimously Wednesday to approve two recommendations:

  • Establishing minimum statewide safety and security protocols.
  • Expanding professional development and better access to resources for identifying and better serving students facing social and emotional challenges, including trauma and mental illness.

At a minimum, the subcommittee said, safety and security protocols should use standardized language, consistent with the Idaho Standard Command Responses for Schools.

Subcommittee members said the command responses — such as evacuations, reverse evacuations, hall checks and lockdowns — will unify emergency responses, since administrators and educators will speak in a common language that law enforcement will recognize. Common language will also benefit students who move during the school year, so kids in Melba and Meridian will know what they are supposed to do if the principal requests a hall check.

Some schools in West Ada, Kuna and Middleton are already adopting the Idaho Standard Command Responses for Schools.

Brian Armes

Meridian Police Lt. Shawn Harper and Idaho Office of School Safety and Security Manager Brian Armes spoke in favor of the standard responses.

Depending on the nature of an emergency and the location of a school, first responders could include a county sheriff, Idaho State Police trooper, firefighter, Idaho Department of Fish and Game officer or local police. Using and understanding a few common terms and responses would help improve communication during an emergency, Armes said.

“For them to understand how that school is responding internally to some kind of emergency event becomes really critical,” Armes said.

With Wednesday’s meeting, three of four subcommittees have wrapped up their work, handing off recommendations to the full “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” task force.

The task force is important because Little asked it to deliver a small number of recommendations this fall, focused on early literacy and college and career readiness.

“We look at this as the roadmap for the next few years,” said Greg Wilson, Little’s education liaison. “There will be immediate priorities, and other pieces will be hopefully worked on over the next number of years.”

In recent days, two other subcommittees approved their recommendations:

  • Increasing pay for experienced educators by building out a third “rung” of the career ladder salary program that would pay out $60,000. Members of the budget stability subcommittee were pretty clear that it would take multiple years to roll out the raises, since state funding is limited.
  • Expanding opportunities for optional, all-day kindergarten across the state.
  • Expanding professional development opportunities for educators.
  • Providing incentives for small, rural and remote schools to collaborate and leverage resources.
  • Increasing access to industry-aligned career-technical education (CTE) programs in rural and remote districts.

Additionally, the full task force is considering recommending a new school accountability system based around growth in K-3 literacy, as measured by the Idaho Reading Indicator (IRI) test and factoring in a school’s demographic characteristics.

Finally, a budget stability subcommittee is considering asking the Legislature to replenish the Public Education Stabilization Fund, a rainy-day savings account, and minimize future withdrawals.

The full “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” task force meets Tuesday in Moscow. Check back with Idaho Education News Tuesday night for full coverage.

Clark Corbin

About Clark Corbin

Reporter Clark Corbin has covered Idaho government and education for more than a decade. He’s followed every legislative session, gavel-to-gavel, since 2011. Clark is a co-host of the Extra Credit podcast with Kevin Richert published on Fridays. You can follow him on Twitter: @clarkcorbin. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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