Based on the article by Ashley Chohlis, “Creating a Safe Learning Environment Demands Realistic, Proactive Safety.” Read the full article on Upshot.
Ashley Chohlis, Director of Administrative Services and Leadership Development at East Central ISD, recognizes that being proactive is essential to school safety, and it requires staff and students to train for how to respond to various situations. She stated, “In an unsafe or emergency situation, people will rise or fall to the level of their training. Every drill, every scenario, we put staff and students through, builds schema for their response in an actual emergency situation. That is why training and developing teachers’ and students’ responses in emergency situations is the key to being proactive.”
Learning from Tragedy
Tragedy struck close to home in Ashley’s district, but they were able to use it as a learning experience to grow from. She stated, “East Central is very close to Sutherland Springs, which you may know as the site of a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in November of 2017… When that event happened, the people in our district were deeply affected. It shook the entire district to its core. The impact was that we all realized we weren’t doing enough to protect our students.”
“Everyone in our district must know how to handle an unidentified person in the building, a fire in the parking lot, and everything in between. Some events are more likely than others, but the stakes are too high not to be ready for anything… We ran drills, certainly, but we ran them when it was convenient…Many of our own kids are in classes across this district, and if our preparation didn’t feel good enough for our own children, it wasn’t good enough for any of the children we serve. Something had to change.”
Using Scenario-Based Training
Ashley saw an opportunity to better prepare her staff and students for any emergency through scenario-based training using Drill Scenarios. She stated, “Across the entire district, we’ll start to drill at times when everyone least expects it. People will understand what their different options are at different times of the day. We’re not going to tell people exactly what they should do in every case—we’re going to give them the skills they need to make that decision for themselves. After each drill, we’ll debrief and help our staff build their own schema. This has always been the dream, but now it’s a reality.”
“Disaster can strike at a moment’s notice. This isn’t something you can control and, in truth, you probably can’t prevent it, either. What you can control is how prepared you are when that moment finally comes.”