More than 100 Illinois education officials attended a free seminar at Illinois State University to learn about best practice school safety planning and sexual abuse prevention from members of Indiana Insurance’s Safety Advantage Network, a group of specialists that supplement existing school loss prevention services.
Indiana Insurance, an insurer of schools throughout the Midwest and a member of Liberty Mutual Group, is hosting Safer Schools Seminars within its six state territory to make schools aware of the additional steps they can take to improve overall school and student safety and crisis preparedness.
Recognizing the ongoing societal problems of school violence and sexual abuse, Indiana Insurance presented Michael Dorn, founder of Safe Havens International. a non-profit organization dedicated to helping schools around the world internalize school safety expertise. Heather Harvey, with Childhelp’s Good Touch-Bad Touch, told attendees about the non-threatening, sexual abuse prevention curriculum for children and training for teachers, childcare professionals, and parents.
Dorn’s presentation began with a dramatic weapons concealment demonstration, showing just how easy it is for students or intruders to get deadly weapons into schools. His ensuing presentations encompassed three important areas: emergency operations planning for schools based on U.S. Department of Education and best practice models; risk and vulnerability assessments that show school administrators how to coordinate tactical site surveys of schools to identify potential risks and facilitate emergency pre-planning activities; and a powerful case study of a chronically bullied child entitled, Weakfish: Bullying Through the Eyes of a Child, which illustrates that a clear and distinct correlation exists between pervasive bullying and risk for extreme acts of violence in schools.
“As advocates for children, we all must be committed to making things happen for them rather than letting things happen to them,” said Michael Dorn. “There are far too many accidents, disruptive incidents, and acts of violence in American schools, and we continue to see the very tragic consequences of them. No school can ever be 100 percent safe, but we owe it to our students and communities to work cooperatively with law enforcement to have the best available safety plans in place.”
Safe Havens International’s polling of educators and law enforcement officials in all 50 states indicates that fewer than 10 percent of school systems have safety plans in accordance with best practice models.
“As educators and parents, we are responsible for protecting children, our most vulnerable population, both on and off school grounds,” said Heather Harvey, training specialist with Childhelp’s Good Touch-Bad Touch. “It’s critical that we empower children with the language and skills to stay safe and vocalize their personal rights, and that parents and teachers have the skill set to prevent, detect, or respond to abuse.”
According to research compiled by Childhelp’s Good Touch-Bad Touch, 90 percent of child molesters are not strangers to the children they abuse, and the average age of children victimized by sexual abuse is nine years old. As many as one in three girls and one in five boys are sexually abused before age 18, and only 6-12 percent of sexual abuse cases are ever reported to authorities.
Dr. Donald White, superintendent for Pekin Schools District 108, spoke to the need for schools to consistently review their safety protocols. “As a proactive school system, we work very hard to make sure that we maintain a safe environment for our students, teachers, and staff. Recognizing the scope of these very difficult and dangerous problems, it’s clear that Indiana Insurance and the districts present today share our belief that safety is a priority and improving upon what you have is an ongoing responsibility.”
Michael D. Connell, Indiana Insurance president and chief executive officer, pointed out that the resources within the newly created Safety Advantage Network extend beyond crisis prevention and intervention and also address more common day-to-day school hazards.
“Potentially hazardous facilities or equipment, such as playgrounds, gym bleachers, or shop equipment are areas where we also seek out specialists to help schools minimize risks,” said Connell. “Our Schools Program is committed to fostering and maintaining the safest school environments possible, and we intend to be part of a continuous, cooperative effort between educators, law enforcement, and the community at large.”
Seminar attendees watched as Indiana Insurance Safety Advantage Network member SawStop demonstrated its exclusive, integrated table saw blade-braking technology. Its safety system detects the difference between wood and a saw operator and retracts the blade within five milliseconds of accidental contact. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, table saw accidents result in more than 60,000 injuries and 3,000 amputations annually, and yield $2 billion in injury-related costs.
Source: Indiana Insurance
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