Activity Guide

This activity explores how educators prepare for and respond to terrorist events affecting their school community. Planning how to respond to terrorism and other violent events is a necessity for today’s educators. Even if the event does not occur at or near the school, many of the adults and students in the school’s community are impacted by the news reports regardless of how far away the events have occurred. Knowledge of the resources in this activity will enable you to respond more calmly and effectively to these occurrences with your students, staff, and community. This activity is intended to help the school safety team write or refine school safety plans using best-practice research regarding terrorist events in schools. It will also assist you as you think about how to best deliver this information to your staff.


  • Reading: Kenneth S. Trump, “Preparing Schools for Terrorism,” in Proactive School Security and Emergency Preparedness Planning, (Corwin, 2011), pp. 126-138.


  • Existing school safety plan
  • 3˝ x 5˝ cards to be used as exit tickets
  • Highlighters, chart paper, and markers


  1. Convene the administrative/leadership team and members of the school safety team for a discussion and exploration of the information in Chapter 7 of Kenneth S. Trump’s Proactive School Security and Emergency Preparedness Planning.
  2. Distribute links or copies of the reading to each member of the team. Use a jigsaw protocol to make the reading more informative and ask participants to read closely and highlight important information to become “experts” on their assignment.
  3. Divide the team into four groups and ask each group to read pp. 126–128 from Chapter 7 closely. This will establish some common language and context for the team. In addition, assign each group one of the following sections:
    • “Overcoming Denial, Fear, Politics, and Naysayers,” pp. 128–131.
    • “Heightened Security Procedures for Schools,” pp. 131–134.
    • “Biological and Chemical Threats,” pp. 134–136.
    • “General Considerations in Times of Terrorism and War,” pp. 136–138.
  4. Each group should begin its conversation with the following question prompts:
    • What information did I highlight in this section and why is it important?
    • What important points changed my thinking about this topic?
    • Why is this information important for our school?
    After the discussion, allow sufficient time for team members to reach consensus on becoming “experts” on their particular reading so that each person will be able to teach the information to others.
  5. Ask groups to reorganize into smaller groups that include one member from each of the four original reading groups. Allow readers to share several observations from the text about the importance of each section when planning on the possibility of a terrorist event in the school community.
  6. Assign recorders to take notes (using the chart paper and markers) as each person in the group addresses the three question prompts. Encourage people to ask questions and get clarifying information.
  7. Ask each group to identify implications for implementing new or existing strategies at your school. At the end of this activity, each group should have a comprehensive understanding of the entire chapter and a written summary of the discussion, including implications for your school.
  8. Have a debrief session with the entire team by asking each group to report out what they have learned about how a school should respond to terrorism and what strategies they feel should be added to the safety plans at your school.

Extend and Apply

  1. The administrative/leadership and safety team participants will prepare a full staff presentation on responding to terrorist events in school based on the reading.
  2. Team participants should report to their original reading groups to plan their part of the presentation. Work with the school resource officer or the district safety officer to plan a presentation that is informative but won’t create angst among the staff. You may want to refer to Module 11, Activity 2, “Communicating with Your School and Community in Responding to Traumatic Events,” as you work through talking points for the staff.
  3. The presentation team should use the following prompts when planning:
    • Group one: Why is it important to address the topic of terrorism in school? What are the key talking points staff can use when discussing terrorism in schools?
    • Group two: How can staff adjust behaviors and plan protocols informed by this section to prepare the school for a terrorist event?
    • Group three: What roles do staff members have when responding to biological or chemical threats?
    • Group four: What is already in place in the school safety plan that would support an efficient response to a terrorist threat and what else will need to be considered?
  4. Each group will then present to the full staff. Before the staff leaves the presentation, ask everyone to provide an answer to the following on a 3˝ x 5˝ card: After hearing this presentation, I need to know more about …
  5. Collect the responses and review them with the safety team. Create a plan for follow-up to ensure that questions and/or concerns are addressed in a timely manner.
  6. Finally, debrief the presentation with the entire faculty by asking each person what they have learned about how a school should respond to terrorism and what strategies they feel should be added to the safety plans at the school.
  7. Work with the safety team to update the school safety plan to include the significant recommendations learned from these discussions.