In an ideal world, one would like to prevent all school crime and ensure the safety of each staff member and student. The reality is so many things are outside the control of the school district that such a task is virtually impossible. To attempt to predict the disruptive behavior of a student, a staff member, the effects of weather, an intruder or a terrorist is unrealistic. However, armed with the knowledge that this could happen, the astute school district and school community leaders can take actions to prepare for a crisis, avoid a crisis, preclude successive crises, and now, equally important, to lead the healing process following a crisis.

No greater challenge exists today than creating safe schools or restoring schools to tranquil and safe places of learning. The challenge requires a major strategic commitment and involves placing school safety at the top of the educational agenda. Without safe schools, teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn. A safe school is foundational to the success of the academic mission.

Safe school planning is all about the “art of the possible.” It is not limited to special restraints or set of guidelines. Each school community has the opportunity to shape the school climate it wishes to create. A safe school plan, more than anything else, is a function of community will, priorities and interests. It requires partnerships and cooperation. The components and the players are limited only by the creativity, energy, and commitment of the local community. Crucial players include students, educators, parents, emergency first responders, mental health leaders and youth-serving professionals.

A safe school is in place when students can learn and teachers can teach in a welcoming environment, free of intimidation and fear. It is a setting where the educational climate fosters a spirit of acceptance and care for all students; where behavior expectations are clearly communicated, consistently enforced, and fairly applied. A safe school is also one that is prepared to respond to the unthinkable crisis.

(Safe School Planning: The Art of the Possible, October 3rd, 2012 by gcckc , by Ronald D. Stephens, NSSC Executive Director)

Exercises and drills conducted by the Sioux Falls School District follow the Safe Schools Program for the purpose of ensuring a safe and secure environment for students, teachers, and all who enter school grounds in the District.

The Sioux Falls School District takes proactive measures to protect the safety and security of all students and staff members. All schools in the District are required to have a school safety and security plan. Each plan must be designed locally with the help of law enforcement, emergency management, public health officials and all other key stakeholders. All plans must be reviewed and updated on an annual basis. These plans include procedures to respond to critical incidents ranging from bomb threats, fires and gas leaks, to an active shooter situation. Training students and staff is a key component of ensuring a safe and secure school environment.

Faculty, Staff, Students, Parents and Guardians are essential participants in Sioux Falls School District Safe and Secure planning. "If You See Something, Say Something™." Call 844-3SD-SAFE (844-373-7233).

"If You See Something, Say Something™" is a national campaign that raises public awareness of the indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime, as well as the importance of reporting suspicious activity to state and local law enforcement.

When to Call

  • Maybe you overhear someone bragging about having committed a crime.
  • Maybe you have seen suspicious activity or overheard threatening statements or statements by someone making plans or intending to commit a crime or to harm others.
  • Maybe you know someone who is driving a stolen car...or is hiding from the police...or is a robber or drug dealer.
  • Or maybe you just see something that doesn't look right. A strange car. A person acting sneaky. Someone with a gun or knife.

Suspicious activity is any observed behavior that could indicate terrorism or terrorism-related crime. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Unusual items or situations: A vehicle is parked in an odd location, a package/luggage is unattended, a window/door is open that is usually closed, or other out-of-the-ordinary situations occur.
  • Eliciting information: A person questions individuals at a level beyond curiosity about a building’s purpose, operations, security procedures and/or personnel, shift changes, etc.
  • Observation/surveillance: Someone pays unusual attention to facilities or buildings beyond a casual or professional interest. This includes extended loitering without explanation (particularly in concealed locations); unusual, repeated, and/or prolonged observation of a building (e.g., with binoculars or video camera); taking notes or measurements; counting paces; sketching floor plans, etc.

Some of these activities could be innocent—it's up to law enforcement to determine whether the behavior warrants investigation. The activities above are not all-inclusive, but have been compiled based on studies of pre-operational aspects of both successful and thwarted terrorist events over several years.

If you aren't sure that what you saw or heard is really a crime, call anyway. Let the police decide if it's worth investigating.

If there is an emergency, call 9-1-1.

During an emergency, or threat of emergency, school officials and law enforcement take specific, planned steps to keep students and staff safe. Emergency plans are confidential in order to ensure that they are not compromised. But what can parents and others in the community expect?

  1. School officials will work closely with emergency first respondenders and the media.
  2. Schools will go into either secure mode or lockdown mode.
    • Shelter-In-Place mode - occurs when there is a threat outside the building or there is a non-threatening circumstance when people need to be kept away from areas (e.g. medical emergency or disturbance). For schools that lock doors during the school day, Shelter-In-Place mode only adds the provision that no one can enter or exit the school.
    • Lockdown mode - usually occurs when there is a threat or intruder inside the building.
  3. School officials will make calls on the Mass Communication Alert System to notify parents.

We understand that parents and guardians may wish to take their children out of school during these times. Unfortunately, parents' desire to take their children may create situations that further complicate an emergency.

If you choose to come to school during an emergency, you will not have the kind of access to the school and your child to which you are accustomed. The following information is important:

  • We suggest that parents refrain from coming to a school during an emergency. We may close the school and parking lot to everyone except for police, emergency workers, and school officials.
  • The presence of additional people on or near school grounds makes it more difficult for police, emergency workers, and school staff to do their jobs. Parents who do come to school will have to wait in cars or outside the school until we are certain the situation is safe.
  • Until all students and the school building are safe and secure, we do not release students from our supervision.
  • If there is an evacuation from a school, all students will be moved to a secure, safe location away from school under the supervision of teachers and administrative staff.
  • Because of the need to maintain order, school staff may not release your child even if you have told your child to leave. Your child is safer under the supervision of school staff than on his or her own.
  • Please refrain from using cell phones and land lines to call the school or your child, as this ties up the phone lines for emergency personnel handling the situation.

During a crisis, our district puts a priority on providing accurate, timely information as it becomes available. We will coordinate any release of information with law enforcement. However, it will not contain all the details of the incident and updates may not be frequent as district officials' priority will be ensuring the safety of the staff and children. To get information, you should monitor the school and district web site and the district smart phone application. Telephone line capacity is limited. Telephone access may not be possible.

Working together as a community we will ensure a Safe and Secure learning environment for our children.