February 24, 2014
State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Reminds Schools to Update School Safety Plans by March 1 Deadline
Schools urged to include mental health policies in plans
SACRAMENTO—Schools have until March 1 to review and update comprehensive school safety plans that include policies for dealing with issues ranging from bullying to disaster preparedness, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said today.
"School climate has a real and lasting effect on a student's ability to learn," Torlakson said. "Nothing is more important than our students' safety, and preparation is one of the first and most important steps a school can take in creating a more positive school climate."
California Education Code Section 32286 requires each school site to review and update its school safety plan by March 1 of each year. These plans must have policies that deal with crime, safety, child abuse reporting procedures, disaster preparedness, emergency shelters, discrimination, harassment, intimidation, bullying, hate crimes, toxic substances, and more.
The California Department of Education (CDE) has created online tools to help guide schools step by step in creating comprehensive school safety plans that address everything from bullying and mental health issues to disaster preparedness.
The new School Safety Plan Self-Monitoring Tool (DOC) provides a checklist of items a safety plan must include to comply with the law. The CDE's School Safety Elements and Resources document has been updated to help schools identify ways to improve school climate and safety. The CDE also offers suggestions for students, parents, the community, and law enforcement on how to Improve Collaboration on School Safety Issues.
In recent years, these tools have increased the emphasis on the importance of including mental health programs in school safety plans. School safety planning committees or site councils are encouraged to work together with county mental health programs and providers to develop policies to refer children who may have mental health issues to the appropriate services. This type of partnership between families and communities can help address the mental health needs of students as a strategy in school safety planning.
Examples of this type of partnership can be found in several of California's model school attendance review board (SARB) programs. School, county, or community mental health workers can work with the other SARB members to link children and families to the behavioral health services they may need.