K-12 Schools Risk Management: Effective Ways to Reduce Danger

Preparing for the worst is the key to risk management for K-12 schools.

Twelve per cent of schools report that bullying is a weekly problem for students. In 2019, FEMA declared over 100 disasters. Six per cent of high school students are threatened or injured by a weapon on school property every year.

Risk management for K-12 schools shouldn’t be taken lightly. Taking steps to prepare for and prevent common incidents keeps students and staff safe, leading to a happier, better-performing school.


Need a more effective way to analyze and manage risks? Download our eBook to learn how case management software can help keep your school safe.


1. Playground Injuries

Playgrounds are a fun place for students to release energy, exercise and socialize. However, they can also be sites of accidents and injuries. In fact, more than 29,000 kids under 15 visit the emergency room for playground injuries every year.

Most playground injuries are the result of a fall, but students may also cut or pinch themselves, become trapped in equipment or collide with equipment or another student. In order to reduce the risk of accidents, take these precautions:

  • Provide active adult supervision. When teachers or aides are keenly watching them, children may not take as many risks on the playground.
  • Use appropriate playground surfaces. Surround play structures with synthetic surfacing, wood chips, sand or gravel to absorb falls.
  • Install age-appropriate equipment. Structures that are too tall or advanced for younger children increases the risk of a fall-related injury.
  • Increase equipment safety. Install smaller structures to reduce the maximum fall height. Add barriers and guardrails to protect against falls.
  • Conduct regular safety checks. This includes topping up surfacing and fixing broken equipment.
  • Teach students playground safety. At the beginning of each term, remind them of safety rules and good versus “too-risky” behaviors.
  • Consider an alternate playground. Encourage imaginative outdoor play and reduce risk of injury by using natural elements such as log benches, sand pits, tents and low wooden tunnels.


RELATED: 58 Tips to Improve School Safety


2. Violence

School violence can be against students or staff and occur in any school level or location. These harmful incidents include physical violence, psychological violence, sexual violence and weapons use.

To reduce the risk of violent incidents at your school:

  • Implement physical security measures. Security guards, surveillance cameras, bag searches, metal detectors and restricted access to the building reduce the chances that weapons and suspicious individuals enter school grounds.
  • Identify at-risk students. Provide counselling and support to potentially violent individuals, but avoid labelling or prejudging them.
  • Track trends and risks. Use incident tracking software to identify students, schools and types of violence that recur. Then, modify policies and procedures to boost your school’s risk management.


RELATED: How to Develop a School Safety Plan


3. Bullying

Bullying includes a wide range of behaviors, from excluding a student to physical assault. However, all bullying incidents share an imbalance of power and repeated intent to harm the victim. To reduce bullying in your school:

  • Adopt a strong anti-bullying policy. Enlist at least one counsellor, administrator, teacher, parent and student to write the policy together. Include clear definitions of bullying and cyberbullying, specific examples of acceptable and unacceptable behavior and the consequences of violating the policy.
  • Implement a reporting tool. Communicate to students, staff and parents how and where to report bullying (e.g. email, text message, webform). Make the tool easy to access and use.
  • Use peer-support strategies. Start a buddy program for younger children and peer mediation or counseling for high schoolers to help students connect.
  • Increase adult supervision. Assign teachers or other staff to monitor the cafeteria, school yard, buses and halls.


Download this anti-bullying poster to hang in your halls to raise awareness and encourage students to report incidents.


4. Weather-Related Risks

Depending where your school is located, you may face a number of weather- and environment-related risks. Extreme heat, extreme cold, winter storms, earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires, landslides, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms can all pose unexpected dangers to which you need to respond quickly.

To mitigate these risks:

  • Write a weather safety plan. Include responsibilities for students, teachers and administrators in different types of weather emergencies. Each school building should have its own plan tailored to the building’s and the students’ specific location, size, floor plan and materials.
  • Store emergency supplies. Purchase or collect items that can help you ride out a storm for a few hours or a few days. Include flashlights, candles, food, water, blankets and first aid supplies.
  • Conduct natural disaster drills. These help students and staff know what to do in case of an emergency so they aren’t taken by surprise. Drills also help administrators evaluate the effectiveness of disaster plans.
  • Hold a safety assembly. Each year, teach students about weather-related risks. Hand out information about your safety plan for parents and encourage them to discuss risks with their children.


5. Active Shooter Situations

In 2019 alone, 36 people were injured or killed in an active shooter situation at school. While these situations are scary and often unexpected, taking the following steps can prepare you and help keep your school safe:

  • Increase mental health services. Offer counseling to students and their families. Reach out to students who are bullied, exhibit warning signs of distress and mental health problems, or have trouble connecting with other students.
  • Encourage “see something, say something”. Teach students that they should inform an adult if they notice anything out of the ordinary, no matter how insignificant it may seem.
  • Install security measures. Security cameras, metal detectors, quick-lock doors and panic buttons can help you detect potential problems and respond to active shooter situations faster.
  • Make and share a response plan. Include evacuation routes and student and staff responsibilities for different types and severities of situations. Conduct drills based on this plan.


Download this webinar and use it to train school staff on how to respond in an active shooter situation.


Approximately half of all children in the United States experience a traumatic event in their childhood. Managing common risks reduces the odds that childhood trauma will occur at school.