Time to renew school safety partnerships and enhance school climate

The school year is well underway, and teachers and students are settling into their schedules and routines. October is a great time to renew partnerships with local law enforcement agencies and review the roles and responsibilities that come with this important collaboration. Public school districts, charter schools, renaissance schools, jointure commissions, educational services commissions, and approved private schools for students with disabilities must review and signa Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between Education and Law Enforcement Officials annually. Additionally, public school districts, charter schools, and renaissance schools must annually review their required school safety and security plans with their district or school planning teams.  October provides a great opportunity to meet these requirements.

Memorandum of Agreement

While the MOA is required only for those schools mentioned above, non-public schools may also wish to collaborate with local law enforcement and prepare a similar agreement. The MOA provides specific protocols for how police and schools will work together and interact in ways that are both discretionary and mandated by law. The school/police partnership is a vital component of school safety, and a thorough review and understanding of the MOA is the first step in facilitating this important partnership.

District/School Planning Team

In addition to the MOA, Public school districts, charter schools, renaissance schools, must have comprehensive school safety and security plans in place that meet minimum requirements promulgated by the NJDOE. Among these requirements are the establishment of a planning team and an annual review of the plan with key stakeholders.  As indicated in the required statement of assurance for this mandate, this review must be conducted by the third week of October. This review provides an excellent opportunity to engage stakeholders in the planning process and strengthen relationships to facilitate effective coordination during emergency responses.

Week of Respect

The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act requires that the week beginning with the first Monday in October of each year be designated as the Week of Respect in New Jersey. The Week of Respect is an opportunity for schools to engage in activities that promote the prevention of harassment, intimidation, and bullying and emphasize the importance of character education, social-emotional learning, respect, and empathy in the school community. While the observance of this event is required for public schools, non-public schools may use this week to enhance their school climates. This week provides great opportunities for schools to provide training, education, activities, and assemblies related to respect and empathy to promote a positive school climate.

Violence Awareness Week

In addition to Week of Respect activities, the week beginning with the third Monday in October of each year is designated as School Violence Awareness Week in New Jersey. This week provides additional opportunities to conduct educational opportunities for the school community related to preventing violence in schools. 

During this week schools should discuss methods for keeping schools safe from violence, to consider school safety and security plans, and learn how to recognize students needing assistance or intervention. Violence awareness week activities should include conflict resolution, bullying prevention, and issues of student diversity and tolerance.

Local law enforcement personnel may be invited to discuss methods to keep schools safe from violence.   School employees are provided with information designed to help them recognize warning signs of school violence and review responses during an incident of school violence.

The month of October provides ample opportunities for school and stakeholder collaboration and to set safety and security, and behavioral expectations for the remainder of the year. While these discussions are required in October, ideally, these tenants are embedded in the school curriculum, culture, and climate throughout the school year.