6 ways to escape a school crisis

All schools are vulnerable to a crisis, no matter how hard they may try to avoid it. It may begin internally from disgruntled staff, from students with behavioural problems, or from disappointed parents. Wherever and whenever a crisis may appear, it’s always good to be prepared in addressing the crisis quickly to restore goodwill and retain your school’s reputation.

We often hear of horror stories of schools going through a crisis, and while some of them are doomed to fail in addressing their problems, other schools skilfully escape from a crisis by publicly acknowledging the situation and craftily changing public opinion through a campaign. These schools are able to deal with the issues at hand due to a prompt and extensive assessment of the situation, a well-planned and actionable recovery strategy, and effective communication with the people involved.

Here are 6 ways to escape a school crisis:

1. Acknowledge the crisis and own up to the issues
You must acknowledge the presence of the crisis by understanding what went wrong and how it happened. However, before apologising to the offended party, you must determine your level of accountability and the degree that you will assume liability. Aside from the legal standoff that might occur, you must be able to make a stand as you become aware of the ethics, liabilities, and reputation that might be affected by your subsequent responses.

You can send out a press release, a video, or an ad acknowledging the situation and ensuring cooperation with the investigating bodies. This is a good initial action, but you must keep on engaging with your school community to make sure that your message is understood and to keep them updated regularly.

2. Identify the signs of distress and learn from similar cases
There is no one factor that defines a school in distress. Often times a crisis bears several signs of potential distress that interact together along with external factors, so you must be more critical and careful in finding the root cause of your crisis. Also, you can learn from cases where a school faced the same kind of crisis. By learning from previous experiences, you can understand what may or may not work in addressing the issue.

3. Understand the sentiments of your community
While some schools would have staff fired or forcefully resigned, sometimes the public sentiment would call for them to stay and fix the problem. You have to know how your school community will react to your next set of moves – would it be better to let off steam by removing the parties at fault? The secret is to take a step back and listen to students, parents, teachers, etc.

4. Create a crisis management plan
Creating a crisis management plan is like creating a marketing strategy – you also need to identify insights to develop SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-based) goals. Instead of building your school brand, the goal of a crisis management plan is to recover your reputation and rebuild trust with your community. Delegate tasks to your team members according to their specialties and commit to a schedule and assessment system to track your progress.

5. Once the crisis is averted, engage your community
In order to successfully escape from a crisis, you must keep on engaging with students and parents. Any signs left by the crisis, however small they seem, must be addressed and kept in check in order to fully regain your reputation. You and your team must be able to create a strategy to prevent another crisis from happening again, and you can start by getting proper community feedback.

6. Get assistance and advice from experts
You don’t have to face the crisis on your own, especially when your school is not used to facing intensely difficult situations. Crises do not happen all the time, unless you’re an agency that deals with them on a regular basis. You can contact crisis specialists for assistance in times of need, but you can also ask for their advice so that you can know how to prevent or alleviate future problems.

Any crisis can be averted by strictly adhering to a plan instead of panicking or waiting for it to fizzle out. By knowing where you stand and the direction that you need to take, you can take the initiative to save your school’s reputation in the quickest and most effective way. 

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