On September 25, 2019, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released The Role of Districts in Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans, which is a guide to emergency operations plans (“EOPs”).  The guide addresses a variety of topics, including the roles and responsibilities of schools, school districts, and community partners regarding school safety, along with prevention and mitigation techniques.  The guide also describes that school districts should coordinate with schools and community partners to make EOPs more collaborative.  The guide details that districts can improve their EOPs by providing planning parameters for use by schools throughout their entire districts and supporting schools as they create EOPs to address and plan for hazards (such as natural disasters, disease outbreaks, or accidents) and threats (human-caused emergencies, such as crime or violence) specific to their school’s needs. 

The guide also contains a checklist of activities and responsibilities for school districts to help them track their progress.  The checklist is broken into the six-step planning process to develop the EOPs which are: (1) forming a collaborative planning team; (2) understanding the situation; (3) determining goals and objectives; (4) planning development; (5) planning preparation, reviewing & approval; and (6) planning implementation & maintenance.

Preparedness is another major theme of the guide which the following preparedness mission areas:

  • Prevention, which means “the capabilities necessary to avoid, deter, or stop an imminent crime or threatened or actual mass casualty incident.”
  • Protection, which means “the capabilities to secure districts and schools against acts of violence and man-made or natural disasters.”
  • Mitigation, which means “the capabilities necessary to eliminate or reduce the loss of life and property damage by lessening the impact of an event or emergency” and “reducing the likelihood that threats and hazards will happen.”
  • Response, which means “the capabilities necessary to stabilize an emergency once it has already happened or is certain to happen in an unpreventable way; to establish a safe and secure environment; to save lives and property, and to facilitate the transition to recovery.”
  • Recovery, which means “the capabilities necessary to assist districts and schools affected by an event or emergency in restoring the learning environment.”

What This Means for School Districts

This guidance provides school districts with a robust framework to develop and implement EOPs.  We recommend involving a variety of stakeholders to create the EOPs.  These stakeholders should include law enforcement officers in your community, parents/guardians, teachers, and staff members (including, but not limited to, administrators, food services, maintenance, and grounds personnel) assigned to each school district building.  For specific questions about drafting your district’s EOPs, please contact your Husch Blackwell education attorney.