Indianapolis Public Schools strives to provide the best educational opportunities to our students, and this includes a safe environment for learning. IPS is committed to ensuring the safety of all students, staff and visitors at each of our schools. With aims of establishing streamlined expectations for our secondary schools, our high school and middle school principals met with core leaders in administration this week to establish short-term safety goals.

Each of our secondary principals updated their school’s supervision plan this week to clearly define and communicate expectations for all staff members whenever students are transitioning from place-to-place on school grounds. Students can expect and will experience active supervision by a trusted adult at all times.

“None of [our campuses] are exempt from the possibility of an altercation,” Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee told the principals. “We must all have clear procedures outlining actions to prevent trouble in our schools.”

Our Academic Improvement Officers (AIOs) outlined benchmarks to be included in all secondary school supervision plans. Every school’s plan will include:

  • teacher expectations and staff roles for supervision,
  • intervention and mediation recommendations,
  • concentrated supervision for every entry point and high-volume area,
  • IPS Police Officers being highly visible throughout the building, engaging students and assisting in mediation when necessary,
  • and specific accountability measures to guarantee school safety expectations are met by staff members.

Within these safety and supervision plans, principals will identify staff members to act as First Responders in the event of an escalating situation. These team members will be present throughout the building and poised to mediate altercations before things get physical whenever possible. Suggested staff for these roles include those with training in de-escalation and mediation techniques as well as employees who have strong relationships with the student body. IPS Police Officers are trained in physical intervention techniques, and will be among the selected staff members expected to intervene physically. Other members of the intervention team will be chosen on a volunteer basis and trained in safe processes for physical intervention. Each principal will strategically determine who the First Responders are, where they are located, how they are contacted for assistance and the expectations of each team member.

Some specifics of the supervision plans will differ based on factors including each school’s staffing, physical size and traffic patterns. The AIOs will work with principals to monitor the resulting progress from each school’s safety plan and to make modifications whenever needed as a method of continuous improvement.

Another important topic in the wake of recent safety concerns in our community is the role social media can play in unacceptable behavior. Our leadership team is committed to exploring ways to help students understand the unintended consequences that can come from recording violent acts on video.

“I think what we must do is educate our young people on when it’s appropriate to use recordings to help with evidence and that it’s inappropriate to exploit others or promote violence,” said Dr. Ferebee. “Unfortunately, that’s not just a public school issue; it happens a lot on social media where violence is recorded and it’s a source of entertainment. That’s not a culture we want to foster in our schools. We want to educate young people on some of the risks of recording violence and other inappropriate behaviors and to guide them on suitable use of cell phone video.”

The common components of our secondary school supervision plans are immediate fixes to safety concerns in our community. A series of long-term strategies have been proposed to develop continued safeguarding plans, including collaboration with the teachers’ union, parent workshops to clarify safety policies and mediation techniques, the creation and engagement of student advocacy teams and collaboration with local law enforcement to establish a curriculum for student digital safety. Our new district Code of Conduct is also set for completion this summer, giving students and staff members a clear and complete picture of expectations in our schools.

“We’ll continue to ensure our expectations and any policies on intervention are very clear for administrators and teachers in our schools,” said Dr. Ferebee. “There will be more specifics that we will share with staff for the coming school year, but we want to end this spring strong.”