Frequently Asked Questions
LanguagesA-Z IndexPrinter Friendly Image


School Safety Center

Frequently Asked Questions

Glossary of Terms and Acronyms


School Safety Planning Requirements

What is required to be included in a comprehensive safe school plan?
As it pertains to school safety plans, “comprehensive” means that the plan 1) addresses all foreseeable hazards that may affect the school, and 2) addresses the elements preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery. Part of a comprehensive approach to safety planning must include outlining measures and policies that address prevention of human-caused trauma or emergencies such as school violence, bullying, suicide, theft, and gang activity. OSPI has developed guidance on safe school plans that may be found on our website, and will continue to help schools develop and refine their safety plans.

Do schools have to report on their plans to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC)?
Public schools must report on their safety plan status as of September 1, 2008 to satisfy the legal requirements. This is accomplished through the school mapping system, better known as Rapid Responder. Additional information can be obtained at:

Do schools have to report on their NIMS compliance? If so, to whom?
“NIMS” is a federal acronym for the National Incident Management System. It is a large program managed by the U. S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS), and the section that operates training programs for DHS is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Only schools that have received federal preparedness funds through the Emergency Response and Crisis Management (ERCM) grants, or other grants more directly from DHS, are required to report on their “NIMS status”. The state of Washington has developed an on-line reporting system, which has had to modify content depending upon the changing requirements from DHS. Schools which have been involved in these grants, or intend to apply for federal preparedness funds in the future, need to report on their status through the Washington State Division of Emergency Management’s Web site (, and click on “Submit NIMS Report” on the right hand column). Most of the school districts that have been funded through this program have worked in collaboration with their ESD’s. If uncertain as to involvement, it is recommended that the district contact the Prevention Center Director of the local ESD for information.

What is the “School Mapping System”?
The school mapping system is the electronic mapping system known as Rapid Responder that is managed by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC). They have information posted.

The mapping system is operated by WASPC, using software provided under a long term contract with Prepared Response, Inc. It includes information for both emergency responders and school administrators. In the event of an emergency at a school, users can access the information via the internet, or they can use one of several back-up systems, including iPad and Android apps. The legislature mandated that all public schools be mapped under this system.

Annual Reporting

When should I update the information in the school mapping system?
Principals should update the school mapping system for their building at the beginning of each school year, and no later than October 15. This deadline will be established in WAC as part of fire code and OSPI codes related to school safety.

Incident Command Training

How does a building principal become certified in the Incident Command System?
RCW 28A.320.125 (SSB 5097) requires school principals to be certified on the Incident Command System (ICS). OSPI has determined that this requirement is met by passing an introductory FEMA course on ICS. Either ICS 100 or ICS 100-SC satisfy this requirement. The principal should have documentation, such as a certificate from FEMA, of passing one of these courses. The online courses and accompanying tests can be found on, or training is sometimes offered by OSPI, the Association of Washington School Principals, local fire departments, or emergency management departments.

How often does a principal need to be re-certified in ICS?
There is no requirement for re-certification or updating of a principal’s training on the Incident Command System, however principals should consider a refresher course periodically to maintain their knowledge of ICS.

Do assistant principals or district-level administrators have to be certified in ICS?
No. The requirements of RCW 28A.320.125 only specify that the building principal be certified in the incident command system. While training in ICS is recommended for all administrators, there is no legal requirement to do so.

Emergency Drills and Exercises

What is meant by a “drill using the school mapping system”?
SSB 5097 isn’t very specific about the “drill using the mapping system”. The intent was to get administrators to access the mapping system at least once a year, so it would be more familiar to them in time of emergency. OSPI has interpreted this requirement to mean that the principal will access and use information in the mapping system during the drill.

Here are some examples:

  1. Conduct an evacuation drill based on a scenario of a fire in one section of the building – the principal accesses the mapping system to determine the presence of any hazardous materials and the appropriate response.
  2. Conduct an evacuation drill for a gas leak scenario – the principal accesses the mapping system to determine the location of the gas shut-off valves.
  3. Conduct a lockdown drill for a possible bomb scenario – access the mapping system to plan a building search or to brief incoming law enforcement teams.

Here are some examples: There are many possible ways to integrate the mapping system into drills. The way the law is written, one of the drills has to utilize the mapping system – it isn’t necessary that there be a separate drill on the mapping system. The best practice would be to access the mapping system each time there is a drill, just to familiarize everybody with its use.

If the school mapping system is used as part of a tabletop or functional exercise, does this meet the requirement for using the mapping system in a drill?
Yes. An exercise that uses the mapping system exceeds the minimum requirements of the law, and is an acceptable way to meet this requirement. Tabletop and functional exercises usually involve only administrators, which is the focus of the drill using the mapping system. An exercise may not, however, replace any of the other required drills, unless staff and students are directly involved.

Does my school have to conduct emergency exercises?
No. There is no requirement under SSB 5097 to conduct emergency exercises, but the law recommends that schools conduct emergency exercises. An exercise is an expanded practice of emergency procedures that exceeds a drill.

Suspension and Expulsion

What is the difference between a short-term suspension, a long-term suspension, an emergency expulsion, and an expulsion?
A short-term suspension is a denial of attendance for up to an including 10 school days. A long-term suspension is a denial of attendance for a definite period of time that exceeds 10 days. An expulsion is a denial of attendance from any class or subject or for the student’s full schedule of classes for no longer than one calendar year unless an application for re-admission is granted. An emergency expulsion is a denial of attendance for no more than 10 days, imposed only while a student poses a continuing danger or continuing risk of substantial disruption. An emergency expulsion must end or be converted to another form of corrective action within that 10 day period.

My child has never been in trouble before, and is now suspended. Is this legal?
Probably, if the infraction is something the district considers “exceptional misconduct.” State law generally requires school districts to try other types of discipline before resorting to suspension. Each district may, however, develop a list of infractions that are so serious that they can result in suspension on a first infraction. These infractions are considered “exceptional misconduct,” and should be outlined in district policy.

My child has been suspended from school. What are his/her rights?
The right to attend public school cannot be taken away due to discipline unless a school provides a student with “due process.” This essentially means that they must have an opportunity to hear the rule they are accused of breaking, be advised of the evidence against them, and have an opportunity to tell their side.

For short-term suspensions (up to 10 days), the student or their parent is entitled to an informal meeting with the principal before the suspension is imposed. For long-term suspensions, the student must be provided an opportunity for a hearing before the suspension is imposed.

For all suspensions or expulsions, appeals may be made to the superintendent, followed by the school board, and ultimately to the courts. More information can be found in WAC 392-400-310.

What are the education options for students that have been long-term suspended or expelled?
Expelled students often have great difficulty finding a way to complete a high school diploma. School districts must create reengagement plans tailored to the needs of individual students. The plans must consider the incident which led to the student’s long-term suspension or expulsion. These plans should: 

  • Include a detailed description of the student's academic, attendance, and discipline history,
  • Address and attempt to remedy the behavior which led to the student’s suspension or expulsion,
  • Attempt to return the student to an appropriate educational setting as soon as possible,
  • Provide a description of a variety of alternative learning experiences, vocational programs, and/or other educational services which may be available to the student,
  • Consider any special education services or accommodations pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, if appropriate,
  • Have an identified staff person to communicate with the student and his/her family/guardians,
  • Consider shortening the length of the suspension or expulsion,
  • Consider other corrective actions and/or interventions to support the student,
  • Include a meeting with the student and his/her family/guardians within 20 days of the suspension or expulsion or before 5 days before the student’s returns to an educational setting.
  • Propose a schedule of such meetings throughout the suspension or expulsion.

There are several options available for educational support:

  • Expelled students may apply at any time for re-admission to the district they were expelled from, and under some circumstances may be allowed to return if they meet certain conditions (such as substance abuse counseling) which might be included in their re-engagement plan.
  • Application may be made to nearby districts as a non-resident student. Districts may reject applications based on an expulsion of 10 or more days, but must also allow the non-resident student to use the same re-admission procedures available to resident students.
  • Some expelled students will find online schools an option, but they will again be making non-resident application and may face rejection based on their discipline.

How can I apply to have my son/daughter re-admitted after they were suspended or expelled?
A student who has been suspended or expelled can apply for readmission to his/her school district at any time. Each school district must have written rules and procedures to apply for readmission.

What should happen at an appeal hearing for a suspension or expulsion?
A discipline appeal hearing is generally a closed, quasi-judicial proceeding. That means it is operated much like a court of law, with similar but less rigid rules and structure.

An appeal hearing may be presided over by a district official such as a superintendent, an independent hearing officer, or the board of directors. Some districts may use a disciplinary board or committee. At the hearing, each side should be allowed to present their side of the case. The school will present their argument as to why the discipline should be upheld, and the student or their representative (parent or attorney) will present their argument as to why the discipline should be overturned or reduced. Both sides can introduce evidence as part of their argument. Each side has a right to examine any documents or evident the other intends to use, and has the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses. The decision of the hearing officer or board must be made entirely based on the information presented in the hearing.

Under state law, the hearing must be either tape-recorded or a verbatim transcript must be kept. Requirements for appeal hearings can be found in WAC 392-400-315.

Can a district suspend or expel a student without a hearing?
In general, a district must provide an opportunity for a hearing before imposing a long-term suspension or expulsion. The exceptions to this rule are emergency situations and short-term suspensions. Schools may emergency expel students without first providing a hearing, but the expulsion may only continue as long as the emergency exists. Schools may short-term suspend a student without providing a formal hearing.

Is my child expelled from all schools in Washington?
No, unless the expulsion was for a firearm. Washington’s school districts are each separate entities, and an expulsion from one district does not automatically apply to all other districts. A district can reject a non-resident application based on an expulsion that exceeds 10 days, but a district cannot refuse to enroll a resident student who has been expelled from a previous district unless the expulsion was for a firearm. A district may, however, determine the best placement for a new student (such as an alternative school), or possibly place reasonable restrictions on the student at the time of enrollment (such as a behavior or a reengagement plan).

Does the school have to provide homework for my son/daughter during their suspension?
For short-term suspension (10 days or less), the school has to provide an opportunity for the student to make up missed work that would affect their grade. It is typical for schools to allow a time equal to the length of the suspension for make-up of tests and assignments. If the school is agreeable, having students keep up with assignments during the suspension will mean they are not behind when they return to school.

For long-term suspensions and expulsions, there is no requirement for schools to provide assignments. However, individual reengagement plans must be developed.


Contact the Safety Center

Safety Center

   Updated 1/26/2016

Old Capitol Building, PO Box 47200, 600 Washington St. S.E., Olympia, WA  98504-7200  360-725-6000  TTY 360-664-3631
Contact Us    |    A-Z Index    |    Site Info    |    Staff Only    |    Education Data System (EDS)