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Emergency Safety Interventions in Preschool: Safety First

Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Photo of Dave Lindeman

David Lindeman PhD

Photo of Phoebe Rinkel

Phoebe Rinkel

To date, the cadre of expert trainers recruited and supported by the TASN KITS project have provided 13 Safety First workshops attended by nearly 400 participants across Kansas.

When the Kansas Board of Education approved new regulations for the use of emergency safety interventions (ESI) in February 2013, Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) asked the TASN (Kansas Technical Assistance System Network) KITS (Kansas Inservice Training System) project for assistance in first getting the message to early childhood administrators and practitioners that ESI regulations do include preschool programs and then following up with statewide training consistent with a positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS) approach to reducing challenging behaviors in early childhood classrooms.

Recognizing that physical restraint occurs more frequently with preschoolers than at any other grade level (Wexler, 2013), TASN KITS is working with KSDE to provide training focused on preventing the need for physical restraint in early childhood settings. David Lindeman, Project Director, said, “The Safety First Training is a first step that can be taken by school districts to support their early childhood teams in addressing challenging behavior of young children.”

Safety First:  A Set of Guidelines and Procedures for Maintaining a Safe Environment for Early Childhood Settings is an early childhood curriculum based on the philosophy of PBIS. Training focuses on the use of research-based strategies and interventions appropriate for the physical and developmental attributes of young children, with an emphasis on prevention. Safety First includes a specific set of practices intended to be implemented within a comprehensive system of behavioral and academic supports such as the Kansas Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS).

Safety First is identified in the federal Restraint and Seclusion:  Resource Document (U.S. Department of Education, 2012) as appropriate training for early childhood professionals. Goals are to prevent injuries or property damage, teach rather than punish, and provide staff, families and children with common goals, language, and strategies to use when challenging behavior occurs. Recognizing that emergency safety interventions only keep children safe and do not change behavior and emphasizing the risks involved in physically restraining children who are developmentally young and small, the focus of Safety First is preventing the need for the use of ESI in preschool settings. Training includes learning to recognize the critical behaviors and responses that are part of Safety First procedures: dangerous behavior, escalation, de-escalation, first response strategies, and a process to follow when a situation reaches the level of considering an emergency safety intervention.

Safety First training includes information on documenting and reporting the use of an ESI consistent with Kansas ESI regulations and provides an incident reporting form that serves as an implementation checklist for adults involved.  Documentation allows adults to use data to identify additional training and resources needed by individual children, staff, classrooms, or programs. 

Through consultation with members of the Oregon Early Childhood Social Emotional Workgroup, Kansas through the TASN KITS Project, became the first state to replicate Safety First training by developing its own master cadre of trainers. In August 2013 fourteen trainers with expertise in program wide PBIS in early childhood were invited to participate in a train-the-trainers workshop provided by one of Oregon’s Safety First trainers, Tim Andrews.

Training became available to school districts and special education cooperatives in October and to date KSDE-TASN trainers have provided thirteen Safety First workshops attended by nearly 400 participants across the state with a dozen more scheduled.

Participant evaluations have been positive.  When asked the best thing about the training, respondents identify viewing and discussing the video clips of teachers responding to challenging and dangerous behaviors, discussion with other professionals about real life situations and solutions, the first response formulas, and having training geared to preschool classrooms. 

  • A Hutchinson teacher wrote that the training, “Taught me how to identify dangerous behavior & how to react to it (LEAD). The most interesting segment to me was helping the child label his/her feelings & what to do about those feelings to de-escalate the situation.”
  • Following Safety First training one administrator surveyed wrote, “ I have seen our EC teachers work with their paras as a team using the strategies they learned.  It was good to have a program designed and directed towards the younger students that we work with.  Thank you.”

Kansas school districts can request Safety First training on the KSDE TASN website www.ksdetasn.org.  For more information about the training contact Phoebe Rinkel, TASN KITS technical assistance coordinator, at 785-864-5550 or prinkel@ku.edu.

U.S. Department of Education (2012).  Restraint and seclusion:  Resource Document. Washington, DC.  www.ed.gov/policy/restraintseclusion

Wexler, L. (2013, July).  Restraint and seclusion:  Ensuring schools are safe learning environments for all students.  KSDE Summer Leadership Conference, Wichita, KS. 

The ESI regulations and guidance document, information, training, and resources supporting implementation of the new regulations can be found on KSDE’s Technical Assistance System Network (TASN) website at http://ksdetasn.org/cms/index.php/esi-resources

Additionally, resources specific to ESI in preschool settings can be found in the Virtual Kit: Kansas Emergency Safety Interventions Regulations Apply to Preschoolers! on the Kansas Inservice Training System (KITS) website at http://www.kskits.org/ta/virtualKits/kansasESI_Regs.shtml.

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