Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Education




School emergencies are thankfully rare, but there is no escaping the reality that they do take place. Schools have a duty to ensure that students are safe. School boards, principals and teachers all play a role in helping reduce the number of school emergencies, but, as research has found, they also play a role in helping guide and lead during threatening situations that are unforeseeable, infrequent and unavoidable. This study looks at school emergencies through the lenses of school board emergency plans and of those who actually experience school emergencies head on - the school principal. This study used two methods of inquiry. The first method involved a two-part literature review. Academic works pertaining to school emergency preparedness and training were first analyzed. Second, emergency plans from eight Ontario school boards were analyzed. The second method of inquiry involved twenty semi-structured interviews with retired and current principals and probed how they viewed emergencies and how they felt their role changed when an emergency took place in their school. Overall, 152 unique emergencies incidents were documented from school board emergency plans and from the recorded interviews of the principals. Often, the experiences of principals did not coincide with official school board protocols. The gap in planning presents unique challenges that resonate with how principals are trained and prepared for emergencies and with how they must gather personal expertise in order to effectively deal with situations for which their school board may not have planned.



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