John McDonald of CSSL speaks at an event

About Us

Mission-driven. Research-based. And owned by schools.

The most effective leaders are accountable. School leaders: It’s time to account for safety.

When it comes to keeping our kids safe, we all have a role to play. For school board members, superintendents, school business officials and school attorneys, we’re here to help you confidently raise your hands and own it.

We built CSSL for you: those with ultimate responsibility, those who’ve been trusted with decisions, budgets, strategy and risk. Senior-level leaders who’ve seen enough in their careers to know that the best response to crises starts with preparedness, that the most effective leadership is about putting the uncomfortable truths on the table.

And given all you have to juggle, you need a bona fide source you can trust. CSSL is owned by schools: We’re funded and under the umbrella of the Missouri School Boards’ Association, which means we’re mission driven and not biased by profit. We’re founded by pillars in the school safety space. We’re on the front lines of research and best practices. We’re trusted.

Leaders keep schools safe.

What We Do

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Crisis Management Support Services​

The Council for School Safety Leadership understands that when a crisis happens in a school, executive leaders may need an experienced and trusted crisis management source that understands the complexity of managing the unthinkable. Just as community members look to their district leaders for reassurance, guidance, and direction, CSSL stands ready to provide that level of support for:

  • Board-level critical incident support (policy, governance and liability support)
  • Cabinet-level crisis management facilitation and support
  • School and community recovery support consultation 
  • Independent post-incident and after-action report and recommendations
  • Legal and liability consultation
  • Memorial and remembrance planning and preparedness
  • Trauma informed debrief for school and district leadership teams
  • “Return to learn” planning, guidance and considerations

Crisis Communication Support

Your community’s perception of a school crisis event is often defined by what you say and when you say it. Decisions that must be made. Who to talk with, what to say, when to say it and how much to say can be overwhelming at such an emotionally impactful time.

The Council for School Safety Leadership has extensive experience in the field of crisis communications and media relations and is ready to help your district navigate this important aspect of crisis management.

Additionally, for districts, associations and conferences, CSSL offers presentations or workshops focused on crisis communications strategies and lessons learned.

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CSSL Co-founder Melissa Randol addresses an audience during a training event

Crisis Management Training

Our communities often expect that school leaders have all the answers following tragedy, and yet there are very few programs around the country that focus on the important work of K-12 executive leaders and board members during and in the aftermath of crisis. Our training provides an open, honest and direct conversation about the impact tragedy has on organizations and what to prepare for professionally and personally. The decisions made during a crisis will have a lasting impact on students, staff, teachers, families and executive leadership.

Our training is available for districts, and presentations are available for keynote and breakout sessions at conferences and association meetings and conducted by nationally recognized K-12 leaders who have the firsthand, real-life experience that matters.  

School Safety Expert Witnesses​

The Council for School Safety Leadership connects school attorneys and school insurance carriers with expert witnesses, experienced in the world of school safety and education. The Council for School Safety Leadership expert witness program includes nationally recognized professionals who, through education, training and experience, can provide consultation, testimony and litigation support from case review and analysis to deposition and courtroom testimony. Areas of focus include but are not limited to:

  • Employee misconduct investigations
  • Post-incident investigations
  • Policy and procedure review
  • Reasonable standard of care
  • School safety/facility design
  • School safety programs including special needs considerations
  • School security practices
  • School violence
  • Sexual assault
  • Student conduct
  • Student supervision
  • Threat assessment review and threat management
  • Use of force
Decorative scales of justice rest on a table in a courtroom
Two investigators point at documents while discussing an investigation

Confidential District Investigative Services

CSSL understands that executive leadership may require a different level of support with a high degree of confidentiality. CSSL upon request conducts independent investigations in cooperation with a school board or district legal counsel to identify potential concerns and provide a written report to help form a board’s decision making and reduce liability. Our team of experienced investigators understands the K-12 environment and the need for quality and timely investigations that include but are not limited to:

  • Executive misconduct
  • School leadership misconduct
  • Sensitive district investigations and consultation
  • School safety and security concerns
  • Post-crisis investigations and analysis

Credibility and Passion

“[CSSL’s co-founder and COO’s training] was very valuable in conveying to our educators that we value safety and security in this school district. [His] credibility and passion helped to make [the training] extra special. As a result of the training, one teacher said, ’I love this school district! I’ve worked in a lot of different places, and I’ve never been anywhere like Scottsbluff. I just have to keep pinching myself to believe it!’ You can’t do better than that.”

— Rick Myles | Superintendent
Scottsbluff, Nebraska

About John

Chief Operating Officer

John is the Chief Operating Officer of CSSL. He was Executive Director of School Safety for Jeffco Public Schools in Colorado for 14 years and is recognized internationally as the architect of the Columbine High School post-tragedy security and emergency management plan. John is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a subject matter expert on active shooter preparedness, emergency plan development and school/law enforcement collaboration. Following Sandy Hook, he spoke at the White House about active shooter preparedness, response and recovery programs. John has led and supported many other crisis responses across the country, gaining him recognition as the School Safety Director of the Year and the prestigious ASTORS Homeland Security Award for excellence in public safety and community resilience.

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John McDonald

Roadmap to Recovery

“Following our recent school tragedy, we came to appreciate the guidance and support provided by the Council of School Safety Leadership. Their extensive experience managing critical incidents in schools provided our District with a road map to recovery and helped our leadership lead with intentionality and focus. We have learned you don’t have to own the response and recovery on your own and with CSSL, you are never all alone.”

— Matt Davis | School Board President
St. Louis Public Schools

About Melissa

Executive Director

Prior to being named the Executive Director for MSBA in 2015, Melissa served the Missouri School Boards’ Association for over 20 years as general counsel, deputy executive director, state and federal lobbyist and other roles. She has served as a member of the Governor’s K-12 Council on COVID-19 and member of the Governor’s School Safety Task Force. Melissa builds bridges, serving as co-chair of the Local Leaders Partnership with the Executive Directors of the Missouri Municipal League and the Missouri Association of Counties, and she is a member of the Missouri Rural Development Partnership Board of Directors.

CSSL angled ribbon pattern
Melissa Randol

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