Student Safety

Schools and districts can empower educators and school personnel to support families, assess student safety needs and follow mandatory reporting requirements. Educators and school staff are trained annually in the warning signs of child abuse as well as their role as mandated reporters. Schools have student support systems, including school social workers and counselors, that can help link families to services. When safety concerns for a student are identified, school social workers and counselors can provide guidance and support to educators in filing a report with child protective services.

This webpage provides information and resources to support educators and student personnel in following mandatory reporting requirements during online learning environments. Schools have student support systems, including school social workers and counselors, that can help link families to services. When schools operate online education delivery models, it may be more difficult to assess safety and detect signs of child abuse and neglect. There also may be less structured support and guidance for making a report. However, educators and school personnel still are mandated reporters in all learning environments.

ADAPTING SAFETY PROCESSES FOR ONLINE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

Schools and districts need to modify and adapt processes and protocols to ensure students are engaged in learning and students’ safety needs are met despite the education delivery model being used. Below are questions school and district personnel should consider in adapting safety plans to identify students that may be at risk of abuse and neglect.

    1. What is the policy and procedure for tracking student engagement in all learning environments?

 

    1. What are the expectations for student engagement? How frequently do educators and staff need to have contact with students if blended or online plans are in place?

 

    1. What protocols does a teacher follow if he or she is not able to locate a student or if a student is not meeting the expectation for engagement? What process is used to contact the student and family if the teacher cannot reach a student?

 

    1. How are the adapted processes and protocols communicated to staff?

 

    1. Which staff can identify signs of child abuse or neglect (teachers, support staff, food service staff, school counselors, administrators, school safety personnel)? How are staff being trained and prepared to identify and report signs of abuse and neglect during a time of blended or online learning? What resources do educators and school staff have to help identify abuse and neglect?

 

    1. How are educators and staff supported if they have questions about a student’s safety and do not know if they should call children services?

 

    1. How are schools and districts using their district or countywide crisis teams to identify, prevent and intervene if a child or family needs support?

 

 

EXAMPLES FROM OHIO DISTRICTS ADDRESSING STUDENT SAFETY

The following are examples of strategies Ohio districts used to ensure student safety. These may be helpful in planning for  online learning environments.

A large urban district used a variety of strategies to ensure all students are engaged and in a safe environment. Strategies included the following:

    • A rapid response hotline was available for teachers to make referrals when a safety concern is identified.

 

    • A family support hotline was published on the district website and shared through communication materials sent home.

 

    • Weekly communication and family engagement were provided by teachers.

 

    • Every family participated in a virtual student and parent conference. During a virtual student and parent conference, teachers asked about the family’s needs and any struggles.

 

 ​Other strategies include: 

    • A teacher communicates with the school counselor and administrator if he or she has not had any contact with a family after repeated attempts.

 

    • If a student cannot be reached, the district identifies additional staff members who may be able to connect with the family.

 

    • If there are suspicions of abuse or neglect, a referral should be made by the district to the local children services.

 

    • If there are immediate safety concerns, school personnel should contact the police department for a wellness check.

 

 

ASSESSING NEEDS AND SAFETY WITHIN THE HOME 

Educators and school personnel may have a variety of experiences when engaging with students and families that could raise concerns for abuse or neglect. Signs like unusual or strained responses to questions, the tone of an interaction or an inability to make contact with a child or caregiver may reveal stressors or circumstances that could signal a safety concern and may require a report to child protective services.

Below are questions educators and school personnel can ask when connecting with students and families to help identify whether support is needed or a safety concern may be present. Always think of the child’s safety first. Consider the possibility the child may not feel safe talking. Be mindful of how the child’s caregiver responds to questions. If responses seem out of character or strained, consider contacting 1-855-OHCHILD. Please be prepared to describe how the dynamics of the call caused concern or seemed inconsistent with the answers that were given.

 

QUESTIONS TO ASK FAMILIES 

Q: Is now a good time to talk? If not, is there a better time for me to call?
Potential follow-up questions:

    • Is everyone OK? Is there someone I can call for you?

 

    • Are there any safety concerns for you or your children? Do you need help right now?

 

Q: How are things going with your child’s education at home?

    • What is going well?

 

    • Is your child struggling with schoolwork?

 

    • Do you have any concerns you would like to discuss?

 

Q: Is everyone able to get what they need to get by (for example, food, clothing, housing, medical care)? Have there been any problems?
Potential follow-up questions:

    • Are you able to access what you need to care for your family? What would help?

 

    • Who can help you? Do you have supportive family, friends or neighbors to help you and your children?

 

Q: How are things going with your child’s behavior and social or emotional health?
Potential follow-up questions:

    • Have you noticed changes in your child’s behavior? Are you concerned?

 

    • Does your child seem anxious, scared or depressed?

 

    • Do you have social, emotional or mental health supports if needed?

 

 

QUESTIONS TO ASK STUDENTS 

Q: Tell me about how things are going at home. How are things going for you?
Potential follow-up questions:

    • Are you feeling OK?

 

    • Are you worried about anything?

 

Q: Who is taking care of you? How are they doing?
Potential follow-up questions:

    • Who makes sure you have everything you need? What do they do?

 

    • Where do you sleep at night? Does anyone else sleep with you? Do you sleep well?

 

    • Who wakes you up in the morning?

 

    • Who takes care of you when you get hurt? What do they do?

 

    • Who goes out and gets food for you? What do you like to eat? Who makes your meals? Who do you eat with?

 

Q: How is everyone getting along with each other? Is anyone having a hard time?
Potential follow-up questions:

    • Who lives or stays in your home (including pets)? Who visits?

 

    • Are you worried about anyone? Why?

 

    • How can you tell when someone in your home is having a hard time? What do they do? What makes them feel better?

 

Q: Tell me about what you do all day.
Potential follow-up questions:

    • What things do you like to do at home? What don’t you like to do?

 

    • Do you have responsibilities at home? What are they?

 

 

MANDATORY REPORTING OF ABUSE OR NEGLECT 

During in-person, blended or online learning, educators and school personnel continue to be mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse or neglect. The suspicion alone of child abuse and neglect constitutes a required report. If after repeated failed attempts of reaching the student and family and if neglect or abuse is suspected, educators and school personnel should make a report to local child protective services. Educators and school personnel should follow district processes for reporting suspicions of child abuse and neglect. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services provides the following information on mandated reporting:

 

https://itvstreams.org

By Harry