Doing More for Safety
Originally posted on JasonWellsAuthor.com
Let me first state that, as it pertains to active-shooter violence in schools, school boards throughout the United States have taken notice. Throughout the country schools have implemented emergency drills with students and their staff, similar to those conducted around fire drills. A “garden variety” emergency drill consists of a teacher locking the doors and students huddling in a specified corner. The more savvy programs require that the blinds in the room be pulled down, as to limit “line-of-sight” issues from an outside assailant. In other words, an outside attacker can’t shoot what they can’t see.
I don’t disagree with any of these strategies. In fact, I applaud them. They are good steps for ensuring that potential targets are not readily available and accessibility to the target is more difficult for the attacker to achieve.
But it’s also not nearly enough.
I have yet to speak with a school district that details their security plan to their PTA, or to the parents of the students in their school. Additionally I have spoken with many parents who have requested a safety and security briefing, only to be turned away and told that it was sensitive information, or that they, the parents, were not in a position of trust to know how the school would respond to such an emergency.
Not in a position of trust? School districts can train their teachers and their students (children, no less) in how to respond to a threatening attack, but they are unwilling to share their procedures with the parents? School districts have the audacity to expect parents to trust a school with keeping a child safe, and yet not outline how they are going to do it. Next time you hire a babysitter, make sure you ask them “How are you going to watch my child while I’m gone?” Let me know how you felt when they say to you, “You don’t need to know that. You just need to understand that your kid is safe with me. Now get going.”
Truth be known, this does not surprise me in the least. In all of my years as a security specialist, I have found two groups of people who hide behind the veil of “need to know” privilege when it comes to matters of safety and security: The first group knows exactly what they are doing and legitimately understands what can and should be discussed; the second group has no idea what they are doing and would rather not deal with criticism of their security measures out of a sake of professional pride. School districts and their safety measures fall into the latter of these two categories.
Schools are run in a bureaucratic fashion, so those who run the districts are usually stuck in a career vacuum and generally void of innovation. Someone in a position of authority once thought that it was a great idea to not tell anyone in the community how the schools protect the kids, and no one questioned it. Like I mentioned; this does not surprise me in the least.
What does surprise me though is that parents don’t question the security procedures that the schools offer, or push the issue. They simply go along with the program and trust that the schools have safety as the top priority at the place where parents leave their children.
If schools and school districts had safety as the top priority, they would do more to achieve it, and frankly they don’t.
From my personal perspective, I have not found one school that has created threat-related intervention processes, similar to those being developed on college campuses throughout the country; Additionally there are very few K-12 schools today that are willing to employee a safety and security specialist. I’m not talking about a security guard like you see at a bank or a mall. I am referring to someone who can train teachers in behavioral threat assessments in students; someone who can respond to incidents and interact as a liaison with the parents and law enforcement; an individual who can patrol the school campus and establish strict security measures beyond that of simply checking into the school office and having a “badge”.
Right now, our schools attack-protocols are based on reactionary responses to violence. There is no attempt at proactive interventions or actions. It’s like having a school that only practices fire drills and does nothing else to prevent fires. There would be no fire retardant walls in the school, or smoke detectors, or inspections of the facilities for faulty wiring; there would be no OSHA inspections of the cafeteria to ensure that flammable items are properly. To think that a school wouldn’t have these additional measures to prevent fires is insane, and yet it’s how our schools operate when dealing with active shooter and other threat-related violence.
Makes you wonder how many schools would burn down without those proactive inspections. It should also make you wonder how many students we would lose if we only practiced a fire drill, and waited for the fire to happen.
Jason Wells is the President and Founder of the National Advancements for Proactive Safety educational non-profit organization committed to providing a safe community through intervention processes, as well as a board member of the National Senior Citizens Committee. He is a former Special Agent with the United States Secret Service, and holds a Masters of Science with highest honors in Strategic Security and Protection Management he is a weekly contributing writer to the online publication Robious Corridor and has been featured in the Huffington Post, Fatherly.com, Slate and most recently in Forbes.