What Impact Might Schools Expect From The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission Report

No CaptionTwo years after its creation, the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission presented its final report to Governor Malloy on March 6, 2015. The Commission has made comprehensive recommendations regarding safe school design and operation, law enforcement, and mental health.  Some of these recommendations will likely be the driving force for future legislation and other initiatives that will directly affect schools.

Among the list of possible changes to come from these recommendations include the following:

School Infrastructure

  • Classrooms and safe haven areas to have doors that lock from inside
  • List of staff and students with emergency contact information to be kept in two locations
  • Facility improvements to enable full perimeter lockdown
  • In new school design, classrooms and other spaces of denser population occupancy should be located away from building entry points and spaces that may serve as “safe havens” shall be reinforced in the same manner as entryways and classrooms

Security Committees

  • Custodians and facilities managers should be required members of school security committees
  • Administrators, teachers, and custodians who serve on school security committees should be chosen with the consent and approval of their peers
  • Creation of an additional permanent, district-level committee to ensure that safe school design and operation [“SSDO”] standards and strategies are implemented in the district. Members would include persons designated by the Superintendent of Schools, the local chief of police, the local fire chief, local EMS, local public health and safety, as well as one mental/behavioral health professional

School Security Training

  • Periodic training for all staff and students on how to respond to all hazards
  • Appointment of “safety and security wardens” who will be responsible for executing and managing the safety and security strategies

Curriculum

  • Pre-K to 12 curriculum to include social emotional learning to identify and name feelings and employ problem solving skills to manage emotionally difficult situations
  • Sequenced social development curriculum to include anti-bullying and, as appropriate, alcohol and drug awareness

Students with Mental Health Issues 

  • Multi-disciplinary risk assessment teams to gather information on and respond supportively to students who may pose a risk to others or themselves “due to toxic stress, trauma, social isolation or other factors”
  • Increased availability of guidance counselors, social workers, school psychologists and other school health personnel during school, after school “and potentially on Saturdays”
  • Students receiving homebound instruction should have an IEP that addresses the social/emotional and behavioral goals as well as core academic subjects
  • For students with significant social/emotional or behavioral difficulties who are home-schooled, parents should be required to implement an IEP approved by the “Area Education Agency” and submit annual documentation on progress by an individualized education program team selected by the parent

Whether and to what extent any of these recommendations will become legal mandates for Connecticut school districts is yet to be seen.  Homeschool advocates have already voiced their objection to the recommendations regarding special education.  Meanwhile, if the legislature does implement some of the more labor-intensive recommendations, such as increased availability of school personnel to address student mental health concerns, school districts across the state can only hope that such mandates will be accompanied by meaningful funding.