CAMPUS LIFE AND SAFETY AND SECURITY (CLASS) TASK FORCE 2008 fINAL Report
Executive Summary - Recommendations
Improving the emergency preparedness of Oklahoma’s institutions of higher learning is not a mission that can be completed overnight. It will require a sustained effort and must involve the participation of a broad range of individuals from across the state and nation.
Due to the complex nature of campus security, the task force requests that the governor allow the task force to continue to meet in order to monitor implementation of the recommendations, conduct follow-up surveys of the institutions, share information and resources, and pursue opportunities for institutional collaboration.
Early priorities should include:
- The adoption of a statewide standard for campus policy and practices that will enhance the safety and security of students, faculty, administrators and visitors.
- A complete assessment of campus notification needs and development of a prioritized communication plan utilizing multiple appropriate methods.
- The establishment of a regular review protocol for campus response plans by appropriate campus staff and local responders.
Other elements of the plan should include:
- Continuous training of staff, faculty and students in awareness, preparedness and response.
- Posting the response information throughout campus facilities.
- Regular rehearsing of the response plan.
- Creation of a culture of awareness and preparedness
- Availability of counselor services on a full-time basis, where possible, or on a consulting basis, if necessary.
- Annual training and follow-up exercises for all staff and faculty on recognition of troubled behavior patterns and on appropriate prevention strategies.
- Development of a pilot program of mutual assistance and training agreements between local career technology centers and colleges and universities.
The CLASS Task Force subcommittees have made extensive recommendations for improvement. Implementing some of the recommendations will take time, implementing others will take money, and some will require both. The recommendations that appear below are listed by subcommittee and by logical chronology within those groupings. The individual subcommittee reports included in this report contain much more detail on these recommendations.
- Individually assess notification needs of each campus in order to establish a standard level of communication.
- Require a comprehensive notification system as part of any emergency response plan. While a universal method is not feasible, 100 percent coverage should be required. The notification plan should provide for alerts to students, faculty and staff, for media statements and for requests for assistance from local agencies.
- Establish memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between all campuses and area law enforcement, rescue and other pertinent agencies.
- Develop a campus emergency response plan template for each postsecondary sector – career technology centers, community colleges and universities. A standardized template would assure that every campus appropriately covers all potential security and safety issues in their emergency response plans. In addition, a standard documentation structure would be extremely helpful to external agencies that may be called in to assist with large-scale incidents. All emergency response plans should be developed in cooperation with local law enforcement.
- Post emergency response plans throughout campus facilities.
- Create a central oversight entity to ensure 100 percent compliance in response plans. Establish state-level review committee to evaluate campus plans every few years.
- Require all campuses to be NIMS (National Incident Management System) compliant.
- Establish annual emergency-response training. Provide training to all postsecondary institutions and for multiple stakeholders, including mental health counselors, residence and student life staff, community first responders, faculty, hazardous material teams, public relations personnel, campus health center workers, etc. Utilize outside resources such as emergency room personnel, bereavement support groups and mental health specialists to enhance training. Identify and consistently disseminate resources campuses can use for in-house training.
- Conduct regular practice drills for emergency response plans.
- Conduct mandatory training for faculty and staff, in conjunction with law enforcement, in the interception of and response to an intruder.
- Require that all institutions maintain photographs of all students, as well as emergency contact information for students, staff, faculty, facility managers and information on consulates for international students.
- Require all institutions to have a continuity of operations plan in place.
- Set a deadline for all campuses to be in full compliance with the Drug Free School and Community Act of 1989.
- Generate new funding for drug and alcohol counseling degree and/or licensure programs to increase the number of qualified professionals in the state.
- Determine the optimal number of licensed counselors and psychologists for each campus and work toward hiring qualified individuals to fill the positions. This will place a greater emphasis on treating individuals with mental illness and drug and alcohol issues (prevention) rather than purchasing warning mechanisms (response).
- Enter into agreements with local off-campus mental health and counseling professionals, where necessary, in order to offer counseling to students, faculty and staff at every institution.
- Improve management of alcohol and/or drug use and abuse cases to reduce incidents of violence on campus.
- Add new and increase the size of existing outpatient and inpatient care facilities for mental health and drug and alcohol addiction. Rural areas need particular attention in making more beds available.
- Engage in regular comprehensive training for counselors and other campus mental health and general medical professionals to eliminate uncertainty regarding compliance with FERPA or HIPAA and other applicable federal or state privacy laws.
- Provide and require regular training and follow-up exercises for all staff and faculty on the recognition of troubled behaviors and on appropriate intervention and prevention strategies.
- Establish and maintain a mental health resource Web site through the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to assist all Oklahoma universities, colleges and career technology centers with staff development.
- Make employee assistance programs available at each campus.
- Communicate with students, faculty and staff that safety and security are not only everyone’s right but also everyone’s responsibility. Adopt an open-door or no-fault-in-reporting policy to reduce the hesitation some people feel in reporting an incident or observation. The lines of communication should be clear and well-publicized.
- Enhance current training on existing HIPAA and FERPA privacy laws to make it comprehensive. Require initial trainings for new faculty and staff, as well as refresher courses at regular intervals.
- Establish an active threat-assessment task force on every campus. A threat-assessment task force differs from a crisis response team in that it tries to anticipate and, hopefully, take action to prevent a perceived threat from becoming or creating a crisis. The threat-assessment task force should have access to pertinent student files and databases for incident reports. The members of the threat-assessment task force should also receive a higher level of training in federal and state law, institutional policy and counseling options available on and off campus.
- Establish clear guidelines on what constitutes reasonable cause, in order to provide and share privileged information on a person that may cause a crisis.
- Collaborate with educational institutions, community and state agencies, area businesses and local governments to share training expenses, lower equipment purchase costs and provide additional counseling services.
- Maximize grant and other funding opportunities. Provide regular, specialized workshops to help institutional personnel identify and submit grant proposals that would help fund a campus safety program. The grant workshops could have specific emphasis on mental health services and specific security measures. A specific strategy would be to maintain a grant clearinghouse to identify grant opportunities and post them on the OSRHE Web site. Possible categories could include campus security, mental health enhancement or technology.
- Allow the CLASS Task Force to remain in force to determine the costs of improving the training for faculty and staff. Current training for emergency prevention, identification, response and notification has proven to be lacking. Specific and immediate funds should be directed toward the purpose of improving this system.
- Secure an additional $16 million in funding to ensure that all campuses have adequate funding for security. Using the surveys as a baseline, the subcommittee determined that security budgets should equal approximately $100 per student (headcount). The total cost of the baseline would be $40.7 million. Higher education institutions and career technology centers currently budget $24.7 million in security. The baseline funding is based on bringing all campuses to the average per-student funding amount.
- Allow individual institutions and technology centers to determine the best use of funds made available to them through state sources. Flexibility in funding will maximize the ability for each campus to meet its specific needs for security and student services.
- All funding recommendations are in addition to funding requests submitted to the executive and legislative branches by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. The funding needs listed above are intended to fulfill the specific requirements of the governor’s Executive Order and should be considered separate from the agencies’ requests.
After a careful review and evaluation of current campus safety and security plans, several modifications have been recommended throughout this document. These recommendations were made, in part, as the result of research into the best methods of delivering care to students in need.
An overarching conclusion of these efforts is the need for improved training in both understanding the laws for sharing privileged information and preparing for emergencies. Immediate attention should fall on this area, and it is where the most funding will be required. Only through diligence in training will a culture of awareness and preparedness be achieved.
Combine the diverse environments and populations of Oklahoma’s institutions of higher learning with the wide variety of possible emergencies – violent acts of man, natural disasters, and accidents – and with the need for both prevention and response plans, and the result dictates that some form of standard guidelines and criteria must be placed by a central oversight entity. It seems clear that the governing bodies, both educational and legislative, should be able to know that if a particular event occurs at a particular institution, a standard plan will fall into place for counseling, response and notification, within the legal limits. Even minimal funding can ensure all Oklahoma’s campuses have the required emergency plans in place.