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Comprehensive School Safety Plans

Best practice considerations and resources for reviewing and approving plans.

On September 27, 2018, Governor Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 1747 School Safety Plans. You will find AB 1747 External link opens in new window or tab. on the California Legislative Information web page. Key provisions of California Education Code (EC) include requiring local educational agencies (LEAs) and the California Department of Education (CDE) to include and post requirements for new content and procedures in the Comprehensive School Safety Plans (CSSPs), which have been implemented.

The law requires the California Department of Education (CDE) to develop and post on its website best practices for reviewing and approving school safety plans. In 2020–21 the CDE implemented a statewide survey of local educational agencies (LEAs), school safety administrators, and stakeholders to gather information on current practices, challenges, and resources to assist in developing this content. The state and federal guidance and resources below are provided to assist LEAs in reviewing and approving Comprehensive School Safety Plans (CSSPs). Guidance includes recommendations from the California State Auditor (CSA) Report 2016-136 School Violence Prevention. The CSA Report 2016-136 School Violence Prevention can be found on the CSA’s web page External link opens in new window or tab..

Background

The California Constitution guarantees California children the right to attend public schools that are safe, secure, and peaceful. The CDE, public school districts, county offices of education (COEs), and schools and their personnel are responsible for creating learning environments that are safe and secure. First responders, community partners, and families play an essential role, as well. Schools must be prepared to respond to emergencies includingnatural and man-made hazards, and strive to prevent violence and behavior issues that undermine safety and security. CSSPs include strategies aimed at the prevention of, and education about, potential incidents involving crime and violence on the school campus and aspects of social, emotional,and physical safety for both youth and adults.

California Education Code Sections 32280–32289.5: Comprehensive School Safety Plans

California Education Code (EC) Section 32281(a) requires every kindergarten through grade twelve school, public and public charter, including community and court schools, to develop and maintain a CSSP designed to address campus risks, prepare for emergencies, and create a safe, secure learning environment for students and school personnel. In a school district with fewer than 2,501 units of average daily attendance, there may be one CSSP for all schools within the district.

The law requires designated stakeholders to annually engage in a systematic planning process to develop strategies and policies to prevent and respond to potential incidents involving emergencies, natural and other disasters, hate crimes, violence, active assailants/intruders, bullying and cyberbullying, discrimination and harassment, child abuse and neglect, discipline, suspension and expulsion, and other safety aspects.

Schools, districts, and COEs all play a role in effective school safety planning and are responsible for familiarity with, and fulfillment of, applicable requirements of EC sections 32280–32289.5 External link opens in new window or tab.. The CSSP requirements can be located on the California Legislative Information web page.

Timeline for the Comprehensive School Safety Plan

The law requires that each school update and adopt its CSSP by March 1 annually. It requires that the school district or COE approve CSSPs. EC does not specify a date by which the safety plan must be approved by the district; however, the school district or COE must annually notify the CDE by October 15 of any school(s) that have not complied with requirements.

Effective school safety planning must be a dynamic, ongoing process with plans being reviewed and evaluated regularly, and after critical incidents.

Compliance Checklist and Templates

To assist in developing and updating school safety plans, the CDE posts online a Compliance Tool for School Safety Plans that outlines requirements and recommendations. It may be used as a checklist; however, it is not a CSSP template. It is supplemental to a complete and systematic planning process. The Compliance Tool for School Safety Plans is on the CDE Safe Schools Planning web page.

While there is not a prescribed template or school safety plan format found in law, some counties and districts or their external providers provide schools with a template. For those who do not have a template, there is now an option for accessing one in the new school safety guide described next.

2021 Educator’s Guide to Comprehensive School Safety Plans

The 2021 Educator’s Guide to Comprehensive School Safety Plans, published by the Los Angeles COE, was developed in collaboration with the CDE, California Department of Justice, California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), school safety stakeholders, and state and federal agencies.

This Guide is the first updated version of the 2002 publication Safe Schools: A Planning Guide for Action, that by intent of the Legislature should be used in conjunction with other resources in developing school safety plans. EC Section 32282(b).

The Guide offers step-by-step guidance on developing CSSPs and includes a template to assist in the required annual systematic planning process. It contains legislative history and trends, a wide range of school safety considerations, emergency operations planning, and an array of reports and resources. A digital version may be purchased for a nominal fee. To order Guides, please contact

Jessica Ayala, Division Secretary, Los Angeles COE by email at Ayala_Jessica@lacoe.edu.

For training information, please contact Campus Safety Group, a nonprofit organization, by phone at 855-537-7526 or by email at info@campussafetygroup.com.

The Comprehensive School Safety Plan: Required Components

Each school district and COE is responsible for the overall development of all CSSPs for its schools operating kindergarten or grade one through twelve inclusive. EC Section 32281(a). The CSSP required components are on the California Legislative Information web page External link opens in new window or tab..

All school safety plans must comply with the following:

  • The school site council (SSC) or designated safety planning committee has specific responsibilities for their school. EC Section 32281(a).
  • All staff must be trained on the CSSP EC Section 32280.
    • Updated school safety plans should be reviewed and practiced regularly by all certificated and classified staff and students, as appropriate.
  • The SSC must write and develop the CSSP or may delegate this responsibility to a safety committee made up of principal/designee, teacher, parent of child who attends the school, classified employee, and others. EC Section 32281(b)(2).
    • The CDE recommends that committees include students, mental health specialists, nurses, athletic coaches, multilingual community liaisons, food staff and custodians, transportation specialists, local businesses and nonprofits, and/or other stakeholders.
  • The SSC/safety planning committee must consult with a law enforcement agency, a fire department, and other first responders each year when updating the CSSP and notify each entity of any updates that occur during the year.
    EC Section 32281(b)(3).
  • The CSSP must include the following components: EC Section 32282(a).
    • Assessment of the current status of school crime or crimes at school-related functions.
    • Child abuse and neglect reporting procedures.
    • Disaster procedures, routine and emergency plans, and crisis response plan with adaptations for pupils with disabilities.
      • Use the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS External link opens in new window or tab.) as detailed in the California Emergency Services Act 2015.
    • Earthquake emergency procedures.
      • Drop procedure practice must be held once each quarter in elementary; once each semester in secondary schools.
      • All staff are aware and trained.
    • Fire drills EC sections 32001–32004.
      • Each school site with two or more classrooms and 50 or more students is required to have a fire alarm system. The EC requires monthly fire drills for elementary and intermediate-level students, and twice-yearly fire drills or secondary students.
    • School building disaster plans for the following situations may include but are not limited to:
      • Bomb threat
      • Bioterrorism/hazardous materials
      • Earthquake
      • Flood
      • Power failure/blackout
      • Intruders/solicitors
      • Weapons/assault/hostage
      • Explosion
      • Gas/fumes
    • Procedures to allow a public agency, including American Red Cross, to use school buildings, grounds, and equipment for mass care and welfare shelters during an emergency.
    • Suspension/expulsion policies and procedures.
    • Procedures to notify teachers of dangerous students.
    • Discrimination and harassment policy that includes hate crime reporting procedures and policies.
    • Schoolwide dress code if it exists, that includes prohibition of gang-related apparel.
    • Procedures for safe ingress and egress of students, parents/guardians, and school employees to and from school site.
    • Maintenance of a safe and orderly environment conducive to learning at the school.
    • Rules and procedures on school discipline.
    • Procedures for conducting tactical responses to criminal incidents, including individuals with guns on school campuses and at school-related functions.
      • Procedures to prepare for active shooters or other armed assailants based on specific needs.
    • Consult, cooperate, and coordinate with other school site councils or safety planning committees, where practical.
  • Schools must annually make available the CDE’s online training resources to address and prevent bullying and cyberbullying to certificated staff and all other school site employees who have regular interaction with pupils. EC Section 32283.5(c).
    • The CDE recommends including the school and district bullying/cyberbullying prevention policies and procedures in the CSSP.
  • Present the safety plan goals with designated invitees at a public meeting at the school site to allow for public opinions before adopting the plan. EC Section 32288(b)(1).
    • This may occur as part of a regular parent meeting.
  • Each school must review, update, and adopt its plan by March 1 every year.
    EC Section 32286.
    • Ensure the plan is properly implemented.
  • Each school must forward the adopted plan to the school district or COE for approval. EC Section 32288.
    • The CDE recommends the plan be approved by the district or COE at the next board meeting after adoption or as soon as practical before
      October 15.
  • Each school district or COE must annually notify the CDE by October 15 of any schools that have not complied with requirements. EC Section 32288.
    • Notify the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) in writing and submit by email to SHSO@cde.ca.gov or by regular mail to:

California Department of Education
School Health and Safety Office
1430 N Street, Suite 4309
Sacramento, CA 95814

Note: Do not FAX this notification.

  • If the SSPI determines there has been a willful failure to make a required report, the SSPI shall notify the school district or COE in which the willful failure has occurred and make an assessment of not more than $2,000 against that school district or COE. EC Section 32287.
  • An updated file of all safety-related plans and materials (with sensitive tactical response information redacted) shall be readily available for inspection by the public, if requested. EC Section 3228(2)(d).
    • Safety plans may be posted online or be made available for viewing at the school site administration or reception office.

The Comprehensive School Safety Plan: Recommended Components

Recommendations in EC are noted. Others are widely implemented by LEAs and recommended by state and federal agencies, and school safety subject matter experts.

  • Include clear guidelines for roles and responsibilities of mental health professionals, athletic coaches, community intervention professionals including those who speak languages other than English, and school resource officers and police on campus. EC Section 32282.1(a).
    • Guidelines should include strategies to create and maintain a positive school climate, promote school safety, increase pupil achievement, prioritize mental health and interventions, restorative justice, and positive behavior interventions and supports. EC Section 32281(b)(1).
  • Include procedures for responding to the release of a pesticide or toxic substance from properties located within one-quarter mile of a school.
    EC Section 32284.
  • Include lockdown, shelter-in-place, and evacuation procedures that are age-appropriate.
    • Practice drills throughout the year.
  • Include the Youth Suicide Prevention Policy in the CSSP. The Youth Suicide Prevention Policy information is located on the CDE Youth Suicide Prevention web page.
  • Include Pandemic Influenza Checklist and Resources and a Pandemic Plan in the CSSP. The Pandemic Influenza Checklist and Resources can be found on the CDE Flu Prevention web page.
  • Include a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP).
    • The CalOES provides a step-by-step COOP planning process resource. The Continuity of Operations Plan is on the CalOES External link opens in new window or tab. web page.
  • Do not make public any sections of the CSSP containing sensitive tactical information.
  • Contact your local office of emergency services for natural disaster and hazardous chemical risk factors, and other vital information.
  • Inform parents/guardians in the languages they understand of reunification plans and the necessity of cooperating with first responders in case of an emergency.
  • Ensure that school safety materials and emergency communications for parents/guardians are available in languages other than English for limited English proficient families.

Note: Do not submit CSSPs to the CDE.

What Can Schools, Districts, And County Offices of Education Do to Improve the School Safety Planning Process?

Schools, districts, and COEs share responsibilities as well as have distinct roles in the school safety planning and implementation processes. Most responsibilities are interrelated between segments and some vary from school to school, district to district, and county to county. The guidance herein addresses CSSP requirements and recommendations, and best practice considerations for reviewing, adopting, and approving school safety plans. Resources are included at the end of this posting. 

Schools: Best Practice Considerations

It is the school site’s responsibility to review and update policies, procedures, and relevant data required for the CSSP and its implementation. It is also their role to analyze data and how it impacts each school’s unique culture, and develop two data-based goals for the school—one for the physical school site and one for school climate.   

  • Designate a school site safety leader to collaborate with SSC/safety planning committee and district/COE school safety contacts.
    • Allocate sufficient time for this position.
    • Provide training/professional development.
    • Encourage collaboration and partnership with stakeholders.
  • Encourage student participation in SSC/school safety committee meetings.
  • Discuss the school safety plan and role play possible scenarios at staff meetings, including certificated staff meetings.
  • Conduct age-appropriate lockdown, shelter-in-place, and evacuation drills that include all students and staff.
  • Create a crisis response box that includes maps, keys, student and staff emergency cards, and medical information.
  • Create an emergency supplies kit.
    • Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center supply kit considerations Emergency Supply List External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) on the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools web site.
  • Establish relationships with local first responders and invite them to the school site.
  • Establish reunification locations and procedures.
    • Ensure that parents/guardians are aware.
  • Learn the signs of commercial sexual exploitation of children and appropriate actions to take. The signs of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children can be found on the CDE Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children web page.
  • Partner with the district to establish or enhance a Threat Assessment Team.
  • Establish anonymous tips options for students to report suspected criminal behavior, suicide ideation and signs, bullying, and other safety concerns.
  • Encourage teachers to report and discuss safety concerns.
  • Ensure that substitute teachers and classified staff receive briefings and materials related to the school safety procedures.
  • Conduct safety/security site assessments on a regular basis and after critical incidents.
    • Use a site assessment tool such as the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Site Assessment Tool found in the Crisis and Disaster Preparedness resources section.
    • Implement Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles found in the Crisis and Disaster Preparedness resources section.

Districts: Best Practice Considerations

School districts are responsible for the overall development of CSSPs for their schools. EC Section 32281(a).

  • Provide training, support, and oversight to schools; maintain policies and procedures; gather relevant data; and connect with stakeholder agencies.
  • Establish relationships with local first responders. Learn respective roles before an emergency occurs.
    • Coordinate emergency response drills such as fire and active shooter/intruder with local first responder agencies.
  • Establish a districtwide safety committee comprised of representatives from schools, first responder agencies, and school safety stakeholder groups; hold regular meetings.
  • Dedicate a position for a liaison to schools to oversee and coordinate school safety planning, implementation, and emergency management.
    • Seek personnel with experience in emergency management.
    • Support training and professional development.
  • Use a document-tracking system to track, monitor, and ensure that safety plan adoptions and approvals occur in a timely manner at the school and district levels as recommended by the CSA Report 2016-136 School Violence Prevention.
  • Provide schools with school safety guidance, support, training, and a school safety plan template.
  • Encourage educator/student participation in curriculum-based school safety planning programs such as the new CalOES Preparedness Ambassadors Program External link opens in new window or tab.. The curriculum-based school safety planning programs can be found on the CalOES web page.
  • Provide or support school safety and emergency management training and professional development.
  • Require schools to conduct site assessments; participate in the activity at the school site and support improvements.
  • Partner with schools to establish or enhance a Threat Assessment Team.
    • A Threat Assessment Team is a group of officials that convene to identify, evaluate, and address threats or potential threats to school security.Threat assessment teamsreview incidents of threatening behavior by students (current and former), parents, school employees, or other individuals.
  • Participate in the Great California ShakeOut™ annually to help prepare for the next earthquake. To participate in the Great California ShakeOut™ go to the Great California ShakeOut™ External link opens in new window or tab. web page.

County Offices of Education: Best Practice Considerations

COEs are responsible for the overall development of CSSPs for their schools including court, community, and alternative schools. EC Section 32281(a).

  • Provide training, support, and oversight; maintain policies and procedures; gather relevant data; and, liaison with stakeholder agencies.
  • Ensure that COE schools coordinate with partnering agencies in the development of CSSPs.
  • Require districts to certify that schools in their respective jurisdictions have compliant CSSPs. This practice was commended in the CSA 2016-136 Report.
  • Convene county-wide safety committee meetings and communicate with safety directors and coordinators in districts and schools. Establish relationships with law enforcement, fire representatives, local business and community partners, and other stakeholders before the next emergency occurs.
  • Participate in the Great California ShakeOut™ annually to help prepare for the next earthquake. To participate in the Great California ShakeOut™ go to the Great California ShakeOut™ External link opens in new window or tab. web page.

Resources by Category

California Comprehensive Safe School Planning Resources

California Department of Education, Safe Schools Planning, Compliance Tool for Comprehensive School Safety Plans

California Department of Education, School Safety Elements and Resources

California Department of Education, Improving Collaboration on School Safety Issues

School Safety Data and Discipline

California Legislative Information, California Education Code External link opens in new window or tab.

California State Auditor (2017), School Violence Prevention Report 2016-136 External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)

Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, Indicators of School Crime and Safety External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF): 2018, 2-19, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs

Final Report of the Federal Commission on School Safety External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF), President of the United States (December 18, 2018)

Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Indicators of School Crime and Safety (2018) External link opens in new window or tab.

Disaster and Crisis Preparedness

California Department of Education, Disaster and Emergency Resources

California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, For Schools and Educators External link opens in new window or tab.

California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, School Emergency Planning and Safety External link opens in new window or tab.

California Office of Emergency Services, Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center, Emergency Supply List for Schools External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)

Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Using Environmental Design to Prevent School Violence External link opens in new window or tab.

Association of California Superintendents and Administrators, School Crisis Toolkit External link opens in new window or tab.

National Association of School Psychologists, Best Practice Considerations for Armed Assailant Drills in Schools External link opens in new window or tab.

National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, Resources, The Role of Districts in Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operation Plans: A Companion to the School Guide External link opens in new window or tab.

The Role of Districts in Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operation Plans External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF), U.S. Department of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, September 2019

Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center External link opens in new window or tab.,
Site Assessment Tool, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Supportive Schools

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Active Shooter Preparedness External link opens in new window or tab., U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, School Safety and Security External link opens in new window or tab., U.S. Department of Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, DHS Working to Enhance School Safety, Increased Preparedness External link opens in new window or tab.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Protecting America’s Schools 2019, A U.S. Secret Service Analysis of Targeted School Violence External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF), United States Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Ready Kids, Disaster and Emergency Resources External link opens in new window or tab.  

School Climate Resources

California Department of Education, Positive School Climate

California Department of Education, Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

WestEd, California Safe and Supportive Schools, Building Safe and Inclusive Schools for All External link opens in new window or tab.

Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, National Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports External link opens in new window or tab.

Bullying Prevention, Discrimination, and Harassment

California Department of Education, Bullying Prevention Training and Resources

California Department of Education, Duty to Protect Students

California Department of Education, Equal Opportunity and Access, Prohibition of Discrimination, Harassment, Intimidation And Bullying in California Public Schools, Rights and Obligations of Complainants that have not Resolved Complaints with the Local Education Agency (DOC)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Bullying.gov, Facts about Bullying External link opens in new window or tab., Provides Bullying and Suicide Information and Resources for Training, Research, and Methods to Reduce Bullying

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Preventing Bullying External link opens in new window or tab.

California Department of Education, Gender Equity/Title IX

Suicide and Mental Health

California Department of Education, Youth Suicide Prevention, Model Youth Suicide Prevention Policy for Local Educational Agencies

California Department of Education, Mental Health: Services, Resources, and Projects

Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools, 10 Tips for Teaching the Psychological First Aid Model External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)

National Association of School Psychologists, A Framework for Safe and Successful School External link opens in new window or tab.

Additional Resources

California Department of Education, Child Abuse Prevention Training and Resources

California Department of Justice, What is Human Trafficking? External link opens in new window or tab.

California Department of Justice, Firearms Safety, Owner Responsibilities External link opens in new window or tab.

California State Audit Report, Report Number: 2016-136, School Violence Prevention External link opens in new window or tab.

California Teachers Association, School Safety: Advocating for Safe Schools for Our Students External link opens in new window or tab.

California School Boards Association, Governance and Policy Resources External link opens in new window or tab.

Association of California School Administrators, School Crisis Toolkit External link opens in new window or tab.

Questions:   School Health and Safety Office | SHSO@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0914
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, June 16, 2021