Communicating About Critical Incidents

  • West Fargo Public Schools is committed to communicating with stakeholders in a transparent and timely manner when a critical incident occurs. With some situations, the need for a communication is apparent, but with many others, the decision on what communication is necessary and appropriate is more complex. Unless the need for communication is immediate, messaging will be distributed via email only. Phone calls and/or text messages will be utilized in addition to email when immediate communication is needed. 

    Situations that will not result in communication

    • Drills

    Situations that may result in communication, depending on the context*

    • Hallway Closure
    • Medical Situations
    • Not credible threats of violence
    • Credible threats of violence (not imminent)
    • General national threats of violence discredited by law enforcement
    • “False alarm” situations (alarm activations, fire extinguisher usage, etc.)
    • Community situation in proximity to school buildings
    • Arrest/charges/investigation against a former staff member
    • Criminal arrest/charges/investigation against a current staff member
    • Building maintenance issues that do not necessitate evacuation

    Situations that will result in non-immediate communication**

    • District policy violations that result in the arrest, charging, or investigation of a current staff member  
    • Serious injury or death of student or staff member

    Situations that will result in immediate communication***

    • Lockdown – Human Threat
    • Shelter-in-Place (tornado or hazardous materials spill)
    • Building Evacuation (fire)
    • Credible threats of violence (imminent)

    *To avoid desensitizing our stakeholders to district communications and to limit disruptions to the learning environment, the district must weigh many factors when deciding whether it’s appropriate to communicate about a situation. 

    **The timing of non-immediate communications depends largely on the district’s ability to receive permission to share information about the situation. Once permission is received, the message will be timed to have the least impact on the learning environment. 

    ***The district’s priority during these situations is to ensure the safety of all students and staff in the building. Communication will occur as soon as possible once safety has been assured.

    Threats of Violence: Not Credible  

    It is an unfortunate reality that we live in a time when school threats are made frequently. While most of these threats are not credible, they can still cause a disruption to the learning environment.

    When the district is notified of a threat of violence made against a school, the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) will meet with the appropriate law enforcement agency to determine the credibility of the threat. The ELT will also meet with the building leadership team to determine the scope of awareness of the threat. The outcomes of these meetings will determine the communications that are necessary and appropriate.

    Potential Audiences

    The ELT will determine to whom communication is needed. Potential audiences are the following:

    • School Board
    • Administrative Leadership Team (ALT) Members
    • Staff
    • Learners
    • Families
    • Media/Community

    Depending on the situation presented, not all audiences may receive the communication. If communication is needed to all listed audiences, they will be notified in bullet order and within a short timeline to ensure each group receives the information from the district.

    If communicating with families, a decision will need to be made if communication is to the classroom, the grade level, the entire school and or the entire district. The determination of communication scope impacts who distributes the communication – the school building or the district.

    Messaging Considerations

    • What information, if any, is the district allowed to share? To whom are we authorized to share that information with?
    • Are the police involved?
    • Will there be a school investigation?
    • Will there be an impact on staffing, programs, etc.?
    • Was there a policy violation? Is there a policy to reference in the communication?
    • Does information need to be shared on the safety of the school/students?
    • Does information need to be shared regarding where to receive more information (outside agencies/information links) or information on supports the school will be providing (i.e., counselors).
    • Does anyone need to be thanked in the message for their work or their report?

    Credible Threats of Violence / Actual Acts of Violence

    When an incident occurs in our schools involving or impacting students, the ELT will meet and work directly with the impacted school(s) to determine the communications that are necessary and appropriate based on the situation.

    Potential Audiences

    The ELT will determine to whom communication is needed. Potential audiences are the following:

    • School Board
    • ALT Members
    • Staff
    • Learners
    • Families
    • Media/Community

    Depending on the situation presented, not all audiences may receive the communication. If communication is needed to all listed audiences, they will be notified in bullet order and within a short timeline to ensure each group receives the information from the district.

    If communicating with families, a decision will need to be made if communication is to the classroom, the grade level, the entire school and or the entire district. The determination of communication scope impacts who distributes the communication – the school building or the district.

     Messaging Considerations

    • What information, if any, is the district allowed to share? To whom are we authorized to share that information with?
    • Are the police involved?
    • Will there be a school investigation?
    • Will there be an impact on staffing, programs, etc.?
    • Was there a policy violation? Is there a policy to reference in the communication?
    • Does information need to be shared on the safety of the school/students?
    • Does information need to be shared regarding where to receive more information (outside agencies/information links) or information on supports the school will be providing (i.e., counselors).
    • Does anyone need to be thanked in the message for their work or their report?

    Incident Involving a Staff Member

    When the district is notified of an arrest or charges against a staff member or a staff member is under investigation, the ELT will meet to determine the communications that are necessary and appropriate based on the situation.

    Potential Audiences

    The ELT will determine to whom communication is needed. Potential audiences are the following:

    • School Board
    • ALT Members
    • Staff
    • Learners
    • Families
    • Media/Community

    Depending on the situation presented, not all audiences may receive the communication. If communication is needed to all listed audiences, they will be notified in bullet order and within a short timeline to ensure each group receives the information from the district.

    Messaging Considerations

    • What information, if any, does the district have permission from the investigating agency to share? To whom are we authorized to share that information with?
    • Does the investigating agency believe the legal issue/matter of investigation is connected in any way to the district or students/youth?
    • Is there a role the district will be playing in the investigation?
    • Is there a call to action? Is there a person or agency that should be called if someone would have information regarding the legal issue/matter of investigation?
    • Is the legal issue considered a crime against children?
    • Will there be an impact on staffing, programs, etc.?
    • Has a decision already been made regarding the employment of the staff member (terminated, resigned, administrative leave, discharge for cause?
    • What is the individual’s employment history with the district?
      • Where does the individual work now? What position do they hold? How long have they been there?
      • Has the individual held other positions or been at other buildings previously? If yes, what, when, and where?

    Death or Serious Injury of a Student or Staff Member

    When a student or staff member dies or is seriously injured, the ELT will meet and work directly with the impacted school(s) to determine the communications that are necessary and appropriate based on the situation.

    Potential Audiences

    The ELT will determine to whom communication is needed. Potential audiences are the following:

    • School Board
    • ALT Members
    • Staff
    • Learners
    • Families
    • Media/Community

    Depending on the situation presented, not all audiences may receive the communication. If communication is needed to all listed audiences, they will be notified in bullet order and within a short timeline to ensure each group receives the information from the district.

    If communicating with families, a decision will need to be made if communication is to the classroom, the grade level, the entire school and or the entire district. The determination of communication scope impacts who distributes the communication – the school building or the district.

    Messaging Considerations

    • What information, if any, is the district allowed to share? To whom are we authorized to share that information with?
    • Will there be an impact on staffing, programs, activities, etc.?
    • Does information need to be shared regarding where to receive more information (outside agencies/information links) or information on supports the school will be providing (i.e., counselors).
Last Modified on January 4, 2024