Every school is required to prepare a safety plan, review it annually and update it as the school’s needs change.

A good safety plan is a detailed blueprint of procedures designed to keep schools safe during normal school operations and in an emergency. It should include such things as the chain of command, where school safety agents are normally posted, visitor screening procedures, how to report an intruder, how to cover lunchrooms if staff on duty are absent, and provisions for security during before- and after-school programs.

Even a good safety plan is only worthwhile if the school community is familiar with its provisions. Staff and students should know clearly what to do in everyday situations and during a crisis. Unfortunately, as the UFT learned from its recent safety survey, many schools do not offer training on the safety plan. Too often, it remains in a file somewhere, rather than becoming a living document that does what it was intended to do: make schools safer by preventing future incidents and having common-sense protocols if an incident occurs.

What can you do? Plenty, because both the UFT contract and the Chancellor’s Regulations give you rights that could make a difference in the effectiveness of your school’s safety plan:
• The right to have ongoing input, through your UFT chapter, on the contents of the safety plan itself;
• The right to enforce provisions of your school safety plan through a fast-track complaint process.
By exercising these rights, you can help to make your school safety plan the powerful tool it was meant to be.

Getting input

Both UFT contract Article 10B and Chancellor’s Regulation A-414 require the principal of every school to establish a safety committee, on which the UFT chapter leader sits. This committee must meet monthly and is responsible for developing a comprehensive safety plan and updating it. Besides reviewing the school safety plan each year, the safety committee can recommend revisions at any time of year in order to “meet changing security needs and conditions.”
Note: Buildings that house more than one school must have one safety plan and one safety committee for the entire building.

How can you get input?

If you see a problem that needs to be addressed — e.g., students who leave exit doors open when they go outside without authorization; areas of the school without adequate patrol by SSOs — you have the right to bring such matters to your chapter leader or other members of the school safety committee. Don’t just complain to your colleagues; exercise your right, through your UFT chapter, to a voice in shaping your school’s safety plan.

Why is input on the school safety plan such an important right — though one that is too often neglected?

Because once your school safety plan spells out specific steps or procedures, you can hold the administration accountable for fulfilling its responsibilities and you can enforce provisions of the safety plan through a fast-track grievance.

Violations of the safety plan

You have the right to file complaints over violations of the safety plan under Article 10B of the contract by means of an expedited safety complaint.

Before resorting to the formal complaint process, your chapter and principal should attempt to resolve the safety complaint informally. If those efforts fail, your chapter leader will complete a Step 1 Violation of School Safety Plan Complaint Form and present it to the principal, who must respond in writing within 24 hours. If the complaint is not resolved at Step 1, your district representative will go to Step 2 by filing a Mediation Request Complaint Form. The Department of Education will arrange for a mediation session within 48 hours. If you or your chapter leader is not satisfied with the results of the mediation, an appeal may be made by an expedited arbitration process. 

The UFT is ready to assist any chapter that needs help with creating a better safety plan or addressing a particular problem. Your chapter leader can ask the school safety specialist in your UFT borough office for a “Safety Plan Checklist,” a template of important provisions that every safety plan should contain. The school safety specialist also can arrange for a UFT safety inspection to help your school identify areas of vulnerability and suggest solutions. 1