On August 3, 2022, BSK attorneys Ben Scungio and Sean Clough presented to school officials on the topic of “Handling Crisis Situations in a School Setting” at the Rhode Island Association of School Principals’ annual summer meeting.

Not surprisingly, the topic garnered a lot of attention, was well attended, and generated a very lively discussion.

Ben and Sean discussed multiple issues impacting building principals when preparing for and handling a crisis. Some of the main takeaways were:

  1. We cannot predict when a crisis will occur. But we can assume one will happen on our watch and prepare by developing policy and protocols as a guide to help us successfully navigate our way.
  2. When speaking to the press, remember these important tips:
    • Transparency is key.
    • Never over promise. Avoid stating that you will deliver on something or produce more information to the public on a particular short timeline can lead to you losing credibility later when you cannot deliver as expected. If you are not sure, do not promise it!
    • Never speculate or provide opinions to the press. Instead, stick only to known facts. Remember that assumed or early reported “facts” often change as a crisis develops. Speculation may feel like you are calming the waters at the time, but it inevitably leads to a loss of credibility. Your opinion in a crisis is usually irrelevant to the issue at hand.
    • Speak through press releases, not interviews. This gives you the opportunity to properly focus the narrative.
    • Keep parents informed. Send parents letters and email notifications to let them know the progress on a situation and assure them that you will provide them with appropriate information as it becomes available.
    • Consistently use reinforcing messaging that the District has and will always act for the health and safety of students. Student-focused decision-making isn’t a catchphrase; it is what administrators do every day. The health and safety of students is why we have protocols and policies in place but reminding the public of that is key.
  3. Documentation is king. Always document your action when enforcing policies, engage in any investigations, or “360 Reviews.” Memories may fade, but appropriately documentation your actions and you’re your reasoning will help shed light on the appropriate actions you took before, during, and after a crisis.

If you believe you or your school district would benefit from a presentation such as this, please contact Ben Scungio, Sean Clough, or any of our Educational & Municipal Law team here at BSK.

clavin September 9, 2022 No Comments BSK Insights