Each year, we partner with HiMama, the Council for Professional Recognition, the CDA Council, and National Early Childhood Program Accreditation to create a Childcare Center Benchmark Report. The 2021-2022 Childcare Statistics and Industry Trends Benchmark Report is out and available now. One of the more interesting findings - during the COVID-19 pandemic, the early childhood sector lost 1/3 of our workforce. Sadly, a majority of those positions remain unfilled today.
As we struggle through the challenges of recruiting and retaining qualified staff – we must remember that it is vital for new staff and temporary staff to receive training on our emergency preparedness procedures. When we think back to the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook, Parkland, Florida, Virginia Tech and even Uvalde, Texas – we are reminded that new and substitute teachers have a vital role to play during emergencies. If these staff members are not trained, they will not know what to do.
Consider: During the Sandy Hook shooting substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau was not trained on emergency procedures. Rousseau was assigned to the class shortly before school was set to open when the regular teacher called in sick. Sadly, the majority of the children who were killed (14 out of 20) were in Ms. Rousseau’s classroom. Ms. Rosseau and a teacher’s aide Rachel D'Avino were also killed during the attack.
In the aftermath, Sandy Hook School was sued by several parents. As stated in the court filings, “substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau "had neither a key to lock the door nor any knowledge of the ... safety and security protocols rehearsed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in case an intruder or other dangerous individual gained access to the school.” Only one student in Ms. Rousseau’s classroom survived.
Then-Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson and at least two teachers in the school on the day of the massacre have testified in affidavits that each classroom had an emergency kit in it that included a key and that Rousseau would have known that. However, upon review of the evidence that state police seized from Rousseau’s classroom the day of the massacre – there was no key in the emergency kit.
I know this breaks all of our hearts. I bring this up because this represents real life – it is beyond tragic that this happened to the children and staff at Sandy Hook.
My hope is that in telling this story, I can spur some action – so that this never has to happen again.
Key points: Please review your emergency procedures with all of your staff, including your new and substitute teachers. Please ensure your staff know how to lock and secure doors. Please ensure all of your equipment is present and in good working order.