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School Safety: Understanding Code Red and Yellows

School Safety: Understanding Code Red and Yellows

In December, in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, we were all hugging our kids a little closer. Many of use were struggling to figure out what to tell our children, so they did not find out in another way that we didn’t have control over, and maybe worrying a little more about what systems are in place in our own schools. Since then I have taken time to talk with the principal of my son’s school to find out how school safety may have changed since I was teaching. The school board has guidelines for all situations including, fire, earthquake and safety concerns outside and inside the school, whether it be an intruder or even wildlife.

Talk to Your Principal About School Safety

I will first say that if you have any concerns about school safety, you should talk to the principal of your child’s school. They will be happy to meet with you and let you know how your school handles earthquake, fire, code yellow and code red drills. In our school each classroom has an emergency handbook laid out with each emergency number in the school, and procedures for each situation. Whenever a teacher on call (a.k.a. a substitute) comes into the school they also receive a paper with all the numbers and a quick overview of all school safetyprocedures.

What is a Code Yellow?school safety coyote

A code yellow is called when there is a threat outside of the school. This could be an altercation in the neighbourhood, an intruder on school grounds, or even a bear or coyote on the playground. Under code yellow, the outside door of the school is locked and normal functions are maintained in the school. Students may not even notice any difference, especially if it doesn’t happen during a time when they would be outdoors. A code yellow should be practiced once a year.

What is a Code Red?

A code red is a full lockdown in the school. Under code red conditions the students will not be allowed to leave their locked classrooms. The code red is used when there is a possible threat inside the school.

Code Red and Code Yellow Background

For the purpose of the code yellow and code red procedures, an intruder is defined as someone on the school grounds who does not appear to have a legitimate purpose to be there. In general if there is someone who doesn’t appear to have a legitimate purpose to be on the school grounds and you are concerned, talking to the office is appropriate. Someone on duty will then approach the person as long as they don’t appear threatening. This lets them know that their presence is noted. They will usually ask for directions and leave, or let the staff know who they are and whether they do have a reason to be on school grounds.  Intruders who are persistent but not dangerous may need a verbal warning from the principal or vice principal. A dangerous intruder is someone whose behaviour suggests a threat. In that case they are not to be approached directly.

School Safety Procedures for an Intruder

Principal/VP and Support Staff

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  • Withdraw immediately if you sense the potential for violence.
  • Call 911.
  • If the intruder is on the grounds use the school-wide security alert system and calmly announce the code yellow.
  • If the intruder is in the school, notify all students and staff on P.A. Initiate the school-wide security system and calmly announce the code red.
  • Provide the police with a floor plan and follow their instructions for moving students and staff.
  • Call VSB area office from a cell phone if possible.
  • Call District Critical Incident response contact.

Teacher or Supervising Adult

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  • Do not compromise your own safety. Asses the situation, keeping your distance.

If the intruder’s behaviour is not threatening:
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  • Ask if the need assistance. Say, “May I help you?”
  • Direct the intruder to the school office, and monitor or escort them.
  • Notify the office immediately – report intruder’s location and description.

If the intruder’s behaviour appears threatening:
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  • Notify the office immediately, report the intruder’s location and description.
  • Stay with students, keeping them together.
  • Follow instructions from the office.

As I said in the beginning, if you have any questions about school safety procedures, please talk to your child’s principal. They should be able to put your mind at ease.

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