The White House released guidelines on June 27 that include some of the lessons learned about how to handle an emergency in a school building (PDF), which were first promised after the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
The introductory remarks include the following disclaimer: “The guidance does not create any requirements beyond those included in applicable law and regulations, or create any additional rights for any person, entity, or organization. The information presented in this document generally constitutes informal guidance and provides examples that may be helpful. The inclusion of certain references does not imply any endorsement of any documents, products, or approaches. There may be other resources that may be equally helpful. This guide replaces Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities (January 2007), which is rescinded.”
That is, the document is meant to provide guidance, not to create any new federal regulations or requirements for schools to follow. The guide represents a collaboration between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the departments of Education, Homeland Security, Justice, and Health and Human Services.
For example, schools might develop threat assessment teams to identify troubled students, parents, school employees, or others who may become violent. A team might include principals, counselors, law enforcement personnel, and others.
The guidelines also suggest ways to respond to a shooter: Assess possible escape routes and flee the situation with your charges, if at all possible, leaving belongings behind. If that’s not feasible, hide in a safe place and communicate with law enforcement officers until given an all-clear, the guidelines advise.
The guide also addresses coping and the aftermath of a tragedy like a school shooting, including establishing a plan to avoid unwanted media outreach, giving regular updates on the situation to local communities, and making sure the school has a plan for reuniting victims and families.