Supporting Students and Preventing Violence: Recognizing and Responding to Concerning Student Behaviors
Recognizing and Responding to Concerning Student Behaviors: Everyone within a school and community plays a role in maintaining safety and supporting the wellbeing of students. This guide was developed to help recognize student behaviors which may indicate a cause for concern and how to respond to a student who may be in crisis.
Suicide Prevention Training: Montana Crisis Action School Toolkit on Suicide (CAST-S)
Montana Crisis Action School Toolkit on Suicide (CAST-S) on-demand training video: In partnership with the Montana Safe Schools Center and NAMI-Montana, we are pleased to offer this on-demand training on how schools can work to prevent and respond to youth suicide using the Montana CAST-S. The CAST-S was developed by state and national experts to provide schools with the information and tools needed to prevent suicide from occurring, effectively react to student suicide ideation and attempt, and respond when a suicide does occur (postvention) to prevent further tragedy.
Responding to Tragic Events: Information and Resources
Resources for Supporting Students, Families, and School Staff After a Tragic Event: It is important that students, families, and school staff feel safe in their schools and communities. Following a tragic event, it may be challenging for a school to maintain and foster feelings of safety. To assist schools during these challenging times, we have compiled these best-practice recommendations and resources schools may consider using.
Creating a Safe and Connected School Climate for American Indian Students
Creating a Safe and Connected School Climate for American Indian Students: Guidance for Montana Schools Developed with Montana Students: A positive school climate, where students feel safe and connected, is critically important to academic success as well as emotional wellbeing. However, very little research and literature exists to guide schools on how to create a positive school climate for American Indian students. The recommendations featured in this guide are informed by the research literature that is available as well as the lived experiences of a group of Montana Urban American Indian students.
Creating School and Community Partnerships
To support students, families, and school staff a school may consider developing a partnership with an organization operating within the community. The video below outlines why and how a school can form a partnerships with a community organization and how to create a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to formalize the partnership. To support school and community partnerships, we have also created:
- A sample memorandum of understanding (MOU)
- A memorandum of understanding (MOU) google doc template
Allowable Uses of ESSER III Funding to Support School Safety: Quick guide of allowable uses of ESSER III funding schools may consider implementing to support the safety of students, families, and school staff
Behavioral Approach to Violence Prevention: This document displays common threating and concerning behaviors and the degree of concern each behavior may indicate.
Strategies for Promoting Educator and Student Safety and Wellness During Online Learning: Information on available resources and strategies schools can implement to promote safety and wellness during online learning.
Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs) will help schools prevent emergencies for taking place, better prepare for when emergencies do happen, and respond more efficiently during an emergency. After an emergency, schools with an EOP are better positioned to take step to recover.
Current Montana law regarding emergency planning in schools: MCA 20-1-401
Emergency Operations Planning Learning Hub Course: This course helps guide schools and districts through the six steps of developing and/or updating high-quality, customized Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs). It is designed to walk planning teams through the process of developing/updating a plan, giving specific and organized steps, examples, and fillable templates.
Six Step Process for Emergency Operations Planning
Site Assessments: As part of Step 2 in an emergency operations planning process, schools are encouraged to conduct a site assessment to examine the safety, accessibility, and emergency preparedness of a school building and campus.
Guides and Toolkits
The tools and resources below will provide schools with the basics for developing their own emergency operations plans:
- Campus Emergency Response Teams: As part of a larger Emergency Operations Plan, a school may consider the development of an emergency response team. This guide walks schools on how to develop such a team.
- Cultural Considerations: When planning for emergencies, is important to consider the cultural beliefs and values of students, school staff, and the community. If your school serves American Indian students understanding tribally-specific beliefs and practices can better prepare school staff to communicate about emergency planning. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides some guidance on American Indian and Alaska Native Disaster Preparedness.
- Emergency Communications Plans: This document provides information and templates for creating emergency communications.
- Emergency Go Kits: Schools can use this checklist to create Emergency Go Kits for their schools and classrooms in the event of an emergency that requires evacuation of the building.
- Emergency Operations Planning (EOP) Assess: This tool is designed to help schools assess their current emergency operations plan (EOP) and identify potential areas of improvement. This tool is best suited for schools that have an EOP are are looking to strengthen their current plan.
- Guide for Developing a High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans: This step-by-step guide walks schools through the entire emergency operations planning process.
- Montana Safety Rubric: In addition to general safety planning, this document can guide school districts working to prioritize their ESSA Title IV-A funds through a self-assessment of their school’s safety structure including physical, culture and climate, psychological and emotional health before, during, and after an emergency.
- Recovery for Schools and School Districts: This fact sheet provides information about the four components of recovery for schools: academic recovery, physical and structural recovery, business functions recovery, and social, emotional, and behavioral recovery.
- School Bus Emergency Operations Plan: This guide walks through the process of creating emergency operations plans specific to school buses.
This Helpline provides counseling and support to anyone experiencing emotional distress related to a natural or human-caused disaster 24-hours a day.
- Call 1-800-985-5990
- Text "TalkWithUs" to 66746
The Office of Public Instruction understands schools’ need for reliable and useful resources to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a potential school shooter event. Schools can prepare for a possible school intruder by engaging in a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS). Preparation well before an event will not only reduce the risk of an intruder targeting your school, it will also reduce the loss of life and property in the event of an incident. The following four principles will help guide you:
- Develop and maintain a working Emergency Operations Plan (EOP)
- Develop and maintain a working partnership with local law enforcement, including scheduling active shooter trainings with them since they will be the first to respond.
- Develop and maintain a working partnership with your Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), and join their regular meetings to collaborate with the numerous local emergency management organizations
- Develop and maintain a working relationship with your local Disaster and Emergency Services (DES) Coordinator
- Disaster and Emergency Services (DES) Coordinator: The DES Coordinator creates the county’s Emergency Operations Plan. Your county’s DES coordinator can provide county emergency management information that may be important while your school develops a school emergency operations plan (EOP). The DES coordinator can also help you to coordinate and collaborate with other county emergency management organizations.
- Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs): School representatives may join your local LEPC to coordinate efforts to help in preparing for potential emergencies. Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) must develop an emergency response plan, review the plan at least annually, and provide information about chemicals in the community to citizens. Plans are developed by LEPCs with stakeholder participation. There is one LEPC for each of the more than 3,000 designated local emergency planning districts. The LEPC membership must include (at a minimum):
- Elected state and local officials
- Police, fire, civil defense, and public health professionals
- Environment, transportation, and hospital officials
- Facility representatives
- Representatives from community groups and the media
To find your LEPC, please contact your local DES Coordinator.
- Local Law Enforcement: In the event of an active shooter, your local law enforcement will be the first to respond. It is vital that you have a working relationship with law enforcement on an ongoing basis. Law enforcement can conduct a walk-through of your buildings to familiarize themselves with the unique characteristics of your buildings and answer questions such as the following:
- How will law enforcement enter the school if it is under a lock down?
- Who will communicate with law enforcement?
- What are law enforcement's expectations of your school’s staff and students during an incident?
- Montana Safety Rubric: This document will guide school districts working to prioritizing their ESSA Title IV-A funds through a self-assessment of their school’s safety structure including physical, culture and climate, psychological and emotional health before, during, and after an emergency.
- Montana School Resource Officers
- Safe and Supportive Schools and a Positive School Climate
- Sign-In/Sign-Out Procedures: Things to consider are: What are the school’s sign-in and sign-out procedures? Where do visitors sign-in/sign-out? Who provides them access? Where do they access the building to pick up their children? What are the procedures to determine if the person is allowed in the building? How are children signed-out at the end of the day? Who can pick them up? Does the school offer after-school activities? How are children signed-in and out after the regular school day
- Staff, Substitutes, Student, Guardian, and Guest Trainings: Trainings and “Need-to-know” information regarding a school intruder should be provided to all the necessary members within the school community. Talk with your local law enforcement for guidance on information that is appropriate to share with each group.
- US Homeland Security (Site Assessment Assistance): The Protective Security Advisor (PSA) in Montana can work with your school district to assess the vulnerability of your schools internal and external infrastructure to help you plan for necessary safety and security updates for your schools. This is a free program.
Montana Code Annotated 20-1-402: There must be at least eight disaster drills a year in a school. Drills must be held at different hours of the day or evening to avoid distinction between drills and actual disasters.
School bus evacuation drills must be conducted at least twice per school year and must include all students whether they ride to and from school or not. The 2022 Montana School Bus Standards contains additional school bus safety information and guidance on conducting bus evacuations. Guidance for school bus safety has been adopted by the Board of Public Education.
General Information and Resources for Drills and Exercises
Drills and Exercise Development
Start here: This Drill & Exercise Development worksheet provides schools with a planning template for selecting and conducting disaster drills and safety exercises. This worksheet also helps schools walk through who should be involved in conducting the drill including community public safety agencies and first responders. For more information see the recommendation for coordinating with Local Emergency Planning Committees and local and tribal health departments and coordinating with first responders and law enforcement.
It's important that schools prepare for disasters while maintaining feelings of security at school. Some drills may not be appropriate for all students or all school staff. Please review this guidance for more information.
Conducting Disaster Drills During COVID-19
Safety and Security Assessment
This checklist provides schools with a list of items that can be checked and/or considered in order to maintain a physically safe school environment and a planning template to address concerns.
Drills and Exercises for Schools
After-Action Report Templates
It is important for schools to reflect on the effectiveness of a drill, safety exercise, or actual emergency situation after it occurs. This will help schools identify areas where things went well and areas where changes may need to be made to better prepare and respond in the future.
After a Drill-Action Report
Example: This fillable template guides school staff in reflecting after a drill is conducted in order to identify what went well during the drill (areas of strength) and what could be improved (areas of weakness) to further strengthen a school's emergency operations plan.
After an Emergency -Action Report
Example: This fillable document can be used to document the events that lead to an emergency and the actions taken during and after an emergency. This form can then be used to guide a school's future emergency operations planning.
Professional Development and Training Opportunities:
OPI's Teacher Learning Hub
The Teacher Learning Hub is an online learning platform that provides high quality professional learning for Montana educators. All courses are free to access and renewal units can be earned (note: you must set up a free account before you can access the courses.
- Building Respect: Bully Prevention: This interactive role-play simulation helps build skills to effectively respond to bullying incidents.
- Digital Citizenship: The course provides teachers with an introduction to what is needed to foster their students’ safe, ethical, and responsible uses of technology.
- Run, Lock, Fight- School Safety Preparedness: This course provides information on how to prevent and respond to an active shooter incident in school.
- Overview of Youth Suicide: The course provides an overview of suicide in the United States and youth suicide related behavior.
- At-Risk: Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Role-Play Simulation: These courses are offered for Elementary, Middle School, and High School school staff and other stakeholders. The simulations are designed to build skills in how to recognize and effectively respond to students experiences distress.
- Warning Signs: Child Sexual Abuse: This course provides information on child sexual abuse, the signs to look for, and how to effectively respond to abuse is disclosed or suspected.
National Center for School Safety
The National Center for School Safety partners with many federal agencies to provide free and low-cost trainings, including lie and recorded webinars by school safety topic, and learning communities.
The Department of Homeland Security
Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) Campus Resilience (CR) Program's Exercise Starter Kits are self-conducted tabletop exercises (TTX).
FEMA Emergency Management Institute (EMI)
The EMI training facility in Emmitsburg, Maryland provides trainings to school emergency management teams and local partners in all aspects of developing comprehensive Emergency Operations Plans. Contact the Office of Public Instruction for information on how your school's emergency management team can apply to attend a course in Maryland.
Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) TA Center
A national technical assistance center for "schools, school districts, and institutions of higher education (IHEs), with their community partners, in the development of high-quality emergency operations plans (EOPs) and comprehensive emergency management planning efforts".
Ten Essential Actions to Improve School Safety: Guidance for Montana Schools
This guidance document was developed in partnership with the Montana School Safety Advisory Committee in 2020. It was adapted from on a report published by the Department of Justice.
The Montana School Safety Advisory Committee and the Office of Public Instruction will continue to add resources to this page to provide Montana schools with the tools they need to keep schools safe and connected.
Creating a positive school climate is one of the most important steps a school can take to improving school safety. A positive school climate emphasizes connectedness and equality, with every student and staff member feeling like a valued member of the school community. Providing time for students to develop positive relationships with school staff and embracing the cultural beliefs and values of each student can help create a positive school climate.
By establishing a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS), schools can address the range of behavioral health needs of students. School-wide Tier 1 supports can positively impact the wellbeing of all students and help prevent behavioral health concerns from developing. When behavioral health concerns do arise, having the necessary partnerships and protocols in place to appropriately respond to the student’s changing level of need across the MTSS framework (Tier 2 and Tier 3) is essential to making school safer.
When a student or staff member displays or reports concerning behaviors it is important school have protocols in place to access the potential safety rick and respond quickly and appropriately. Schools are encouraged to form a multidisciplinary team and establish standard procedures, such as a threat assessment or school-wide screening protocols, to identify students and staff who may be experiencing distress and link them to the supports necessary to keep everyone safe. Schools can also post state and national crisis lines in highly visible places to improve school safety.
Schools can improve safety by creating bidirectional communication channels between the school and the community. It is important students, families, and staff know who to contact if they observe any perceived threats to school safety, including the potential of a student or staff member to harm him/herself or others. Some schools have established anonymous reporting systems or tip lines, where anyone can report a concern at any time.
A comprehensive school emergency operations plan (EOP) is foundational to improving school safety. EOPs should begin with a risk and resource assessment to identify potential safety threats and existing resources to help address those threats. It is important to establish a multidisciplinary team of people to conduct the assessments and develop a plan for prioritizing potential threats. Creating a county-wide team can help ensure all available skills and resources are utilized.
Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) and local and tribal health departments are important partners for preventing and responding to school safety threats, especially natural disasters. Schools are encouraged to include LEPCs local and tribal health departments in their EOPs and utilize the emergency preparedness and recovery services that may be available.
It is important schools communicate with those who will respond in an emergency situation before an emergency takes place. Schools are encouraged to involve first responders and local and tribal law enforcement in the development of their EOP and disaster drill trainings. Establishing methods for communication before, during, and after an emergency is important for minimizing harm.
There is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution for school security and decisions for implementing security measures should be informed by a risk assessment and part of the school EOP. At a minimum, it is recommended schools take steps to make it easy to find and navigate to specific locations within a school campus. One example of this is implementing a classroom numbering system that is easily visible from inside and outside of the school building(s).
- Site Assessment: A site assessment examines the safety, accessibility, and emergency preparedness of school buildings and grounds.
Practicing disaster drills can better prepare students and staff to follow procedures and safely react in emergency situations. Schools are encouraged to use their EOP to inform their plan for carrying out disaster drills. It is also important to consider who participates in what drills; it may not be beneficial to have students participate in all drills.
The Montana Office of Public Instruction strives to put students first. Through partnerships with students, parents/caregivers, and schools, we are dedicated to bringing the voices of Montana students to the forefront of important conversations regarding student mental health, wellness, and school safety.
Montana Students Speak Out!
Student Voice Submission Opportunity
Join the conversation about supporting student wellness in Montana! We want to hear from students to better understand their experiences and hear their recommendations to improve in-school supports for student mental health and wellness. We are currently seeking youth video submissions and written submission to elevate Montana student voices. To participate you must be a Montana youth between the ages of 14 and 19 years old. Please see this informational flyer for more information.
To submit a student voice video:
- To get started, fill out this google form to let us know about your interest.
- Each student will also need to have a parent or caregiver complete a Release Form before we can publicly show his/her video.
To submit a written response:
- Students can provide written responses using this google form.
- Students can provide their names or remain anonymous in their responses. With permission from the student, we will reach out to the student for more information if needed and about permission to use student quotations. A completed Release Form is required before we can publicly share a student's name or quotations.
How the student voice submissions will be used:
Video submissions: We will gather video submissions and bring the voices of Montana students to the forefront of the important discussions and activities to support Montana students. Student video submissions will be gathered, combined with others, and shared widely with schools, health providers, and decision-makers from across the state. The final version of the student voice video project will be made public for anyone to view.
Written submissions: Like the video submissions, we will bring the written responses of Montana students to the forefront of the important discussions and activities to support Montana students. Student written submissions will be gathered, combined with others, and shared in a written report with schools, health providers, and decision-makers from across the state. The final written report of the student voice project will be made public for anyone to view.
School Climate and Safety Student Advisory Board
The purpose of the School Climate and Safety Youth Advisory Board is to gather and elevate youth voice to promote action to be taken to assure every Montana student feels safe, welcome, and supported in school. We will bring high school students from around the state together in virtual monthly meetings to discuss topics the student identify as important to supporting student mental health and wellness.
We are currently looking for schools to assist students in joining the conversation about supporting student safety, mental health, and wellness. Please see this informational flyer for more details.
School Safety and Wellness Student Voice Projects
We will continue to add to this section as our work to elevate Montana student voices continues! Check back frequently for updates.
Creating a Safe and Connected School Climate for American Indian Students
Creating a Safe and Connected School Climate for American Indian Students: Guidance for Montana Schools Developed with Montana Students: A positive school climate, where students feel safe and connected, is critically important to academic success as well as emotional wellbeing. The recommendations featured in this guide are informed by the research literature that is available as well as the lived experiences of a group of Montana Urban American Indian students.
Student School Safety Recommendations