Dr. Jolene Palmer, School Safety Director for the Nebraska Department of Education, has been a longtime partner of the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center. Over the past year, Dr. Palmer and her team, along with Dr. Mario Scalora and Dr. Denise Bulling, have been leading efforts to provide threat assessment training to Nebraska schools.
This collaborative effort is providing virtual K-12 school team training around the state and working with the Safe2Help reporting line, which was made possible by the Nebraska Legislature. These efforts aim to help schools form or enhance teams focused on identifying, assessing, and managing the risk/threat of targeted violence posed by students, staff, and community members towards the school community.
What can you tell us about your efforts with school safety?
We work with schools to help them understand what all we have to offer them to enhance their safety and security. One of the things we try to emphasize is that safety and security is everyone’s job—not just the administrators. Everybody is a part of school safety.
It is all based around the four principles: prevent, prepare, respond, and recover. Every day in our schools, we should be doing things already to prevent any kind of hazard, incident, or threat from happening. We should be building strong relationships with kids to know when things are happening and be there when they need us. We need to be doing proactive things every day to know what’s going on in the lives of kids and know what’s happening in our schools. Every threat or event has an incident or grievance at the beginning. If we can help decrease reasons to have grievances, we’re going to keep our schools safer. It’s all about preventing.
What can you tell me about Safe2Help and the role this plays in School Safety?
Safe2Help is the missing piece of prevention, because we need to be able to give students a voice. This is a way to give students and staff a voice in how to keep themselves, others, and their school safe through an anonymous reporting line. We are encouraging the reporting of concerning behaviors of other people with this line, but it is important to do this in a way that is friendly to students and schools. Whether it’s preparing for school violence, suicide, or other incidents, the Safe2Help reporting line is a way to give a voice to the voiceless. Over 80% of the time, we know that somebody leaks information prior to a violent attack. The goal is to help us get that information prior to that event happening.
We pursued Safe2Help on behalf of all the schools in Nebraska that have no reporting system at this time. There are a significant number of schools that don’t have any kind of report line. The intent to fill that gap between those who had a report line that was working for them and those that don’t. The uniqueness of Safe2Help is that it is answered by real people—there are crisis counselors who answer that report line and it is responded to 24/7.
For Safe2Help, we have a lot of interest and we are getting schools trained as quickly as we can. We’re trying to help schools see the whole picture of safety and how we can all play a role in school safety.
Learn more about Nebraska School Safety by visiting https://www.education.ne.gov/safety