State Reviewing Safety and Security Supports for Vermont Schools
Vermont Agency of Education
Vermont Department of Public Safety
May 31, 2022
In the wake of the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and several concerning reports in Vermont, the Agency of Education and Department of Public Safety are reviewing and updating state safety and security supports for Vermont schools. This type of review occurs regularly and is especially important any time there is a critical incident or threat affecting schools in Vermont or in the wake of national events.
“Our first responsibility is to do whatever we can to reduce the likelihood of a serious threat to the safety of Vermont students,” said Secretary of Education Dan French. “I urge Vermont school leaders to continue to work with the Vermont School Safety Center and School Crisis Planning team to ensure our schools are prepared and have the tools they need to prevent and respond to school safety threats while also supporting the mental health and social-emotional needs of their communities. Our goal is not only for students, staff, and teachers to be safe at school, but to feel secure in their learning environment.”
One simple thing we can all do to address problems before they begin is to simply speak up when one sees concerning behavior. The “See Something, Say Something” campaign encourages students to talk with adults if they are aware of other students considering harming themselves or others. This is one of the key programs of the Vermont School Safety Center.
The Vermont School Safety Center was organized in 2016 by the Vermont Department of Public Safety and Agency of Education to provide safety resources and planning assistance to schools and districts. The Vermont School Crisis Planning Team is a task force consisting of state, federal, and local leaders in education, public safety, mental health, and other specialties who guide school safety efforts in the state.
“Our statewide approach to school safety is designed to create a fabric of initiatives and funding to do everything possible to prevent critical incidents by enabling early identification of hazards and threats, and to respond swiftly and decisively in the event of an incident,” said Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling.
In the past three years the state of Vermont has dedicated nearly $6 million to enhance school safety through capital improvements and training for school administrators and staff. Training focuses primarily on violence prevention and preparing for a response in the event of an incident. These initiatives were informed by a statewide survey completed by school administrators who were asked to identify areas for improvement and investment in security and planning.
Synopsis of recent investments and initiatives:
Behavioral Threat Assessment Training
$357,480 in federal grant funding has been utilized to provide training to schools to establish at least one threat assessment subject matter expert. Behavioral threat assessment is a process designed to identify, analyze, and manage threats to prevent violence. School staff and administrators were trained in behavioral threat assessment and administrators were taught how to teach their staff how to recognize risks.
School Safety and Security Grant Program
Governor Phil Scott and the Vermont legislature allocated a total of $5.4 million in the State’s 2018 and 2019 capital budget to enable Vermont schools and supervisory unions to install equipment and implement building upgrades to enhance security. Priority was given to exterior and interior door locking mechanisms and public address systems to ensure all those in and outside school buildings can be informed of an emergency. Other improvements funded through these grants include security cameras, window shading and other projects. More than 700 improvements at more than 250 schools were funded through the program.
School Safety Anonymous Tip Line
A $173,000 Department of Justice grant established a comprehensive communication system designed to provide students, school personnel, or other members of the public with a safe and anonymous or confidential way to report a threat or potential threat to student or school safety.
Phone: 844-723-3488 (844-safe4vt)
Text: 274637, keyword “safe4vt” then tip
SurviVermont educates Vermonters about what they can do to protect themselves and their family members if they are confronted with an Active Shooter or Violent Threat situation in any setting. It combines 3 easy-to-remember concepts from established federal public safety programs: See Something, Say Something (campaign to encourage students to talk with adults if they are aware of other students considering harming themselves or others); Run, Hide and Fight; and Stop the Bleed (grassroots effort that encourages bystanders to become trained, equipped, and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives.)
Training, Exercise, and Drill Guidance
The Vermont School Safety Center hosts trainings throughout the year focusing on preparedness, awareness, and response. Subjects include, de-escalation, family reunification, tabletop exercises, options-based response (Run, Hide, Fight) and more. The VSSC also offers schools recommendations and guidance in the conduct of egress, fire, violent intruder, and school bus evacuation drills.
Vermont School Crisis Planning, Training, and Exercise Initiative
A 2018 statewide safety assessment of 422 schools conducted by local, county, and state law enforcement in partnership with Vermont schools identified school crisis planning, training and exercise strengths and opportunities for improvement in schools. Regional workshops were held in the following months, and trainings and tabletop exercises developed in the following months to address areas for improvement.
The Vermont School Safety Center website offers all schools guidance on Emergency Operation Plan development, the state School Crisis Planning Guide, and communication templates among other tools.
More information on these resources can be found on the Vermont School Safety Center website.