5 Key Steps to Ensuring an Effective Alert Response Protocol

As many districts distributed mobile learning devices to facilitate distance learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, school faculty, mental health experts, and even parents began to observe heightened stress and anxiety levels among students experiencing isolation from their teachers and peers when working remotely. Beyond simple online meeting fatigue, some students began suffering mood swings, depression, and in extreme cases, inclinations toward self-harm, thoughts of suicide, and even violence towards others.

Now, schools can leverage technology – including Lightspeed Systems® solutions — that can scan student online activity for indications of such imminent behavior. Lightspeed Alert™ employs sophisticated AI that scans all student online activity on district-issued devices, homing in on a constantly curated list of keywords and utilizing machine learning to contextualize such red flags to alert district personnel.

Recently, Bibb County (GA) Public Schools Data Security Coordinator Greg Hogan spoke with Lightspeed about some of the most important ideas that district IT departments and administrators should keep in mind when using a network alert system such as Lightspeed Alert. Watch the FREE webinar here. Hogan provided five key recommendations, all intended to help school districts get the maximum benefit from their online alert systems:

  1. If You’ve Got It, Use It

Technology that will enable school officials to know ahead of time if a student is experiencing or approaching a crisis is too valuable to ignore. Don’t be tempted to turn it off because it’s too much trouble to monitor or to initiate the appropriate response. If you don’t have it, get it.

  1. Keep It Simple

Limit your process and keep your notification list short. Hogan urges alert monitors to a) identify the threat and assess its urgency; b) contact the appropriate school-level persons, usually a counselor and an administrator, with an email containing a screen shot of the content that elicited the alert; c) get out of the way and let the school handle the situation – the school will escalate further as necessary to include law enforcement and/or mental health personnel, parents, etc.

  1. Maintain a Dialogue with the Schools

Be open to counsellor and administrator feedback. Your email containing the nature of the alert and screen shot evidence may seem to you to be the most efficient way of communicating a legitimate threat to the appropriate responder(s), but it may not be an efficient fit with how they work. If your recipients request it, be willing to discuss communications styles and content that may be better (phone calls, text messages, follow-up emails, etc.).

  1. Set Expectations Ahead of Time

Make sure that school officials have a good understanding of what the Lightspeed Alert system can and can’t do, and work with them to create the clearest, most streamlined and efficient alert response protocol and follow-up that you can.

  1. The Right Person at the Right Time

Arrange your contact hierarchy to be effective and efficient. A counselor is likely the best first recipient after IT becomes aware of the alert. Counselors are usually most familiar with potentially affected students and their parents. Next, a designated building administrator should be contacted; the administrator will have clear understanding of procedures and any escalation protocol in the district should it be necessary. Have in place at least one backup should any of your primary contacts be unreachable. Once the school personnel have been informed and confirmed that they have received the notification, your job is to carefully document the incident. Lightspeed Alert can help you with screenshot evidence, timelines, history, and other information for full documentation.

Student mental health and safety has become critically important during and post shutdown. Let the experts at Lightspeed Systems help you enhance your district’s ability to safeguard students and deliver the most effective online learning experience.

Further Reading