Guest Blogger, Michael Dorn, Safe Havens International
Having worked in the campus safety field for nearly thirty five years, I have never seen as much time, energy and money devoted to school safety as I have since the Sandy Hook tragedy. Formal evaluations of more than 6,000 K12 schools indicate that the results of all of this effort are mixed. In comparing the more than 1,000 K12 schools we have assessed since that attack, to the 5,000 schools our analysts assessed prior, the consensus of our 52 analysts is that while we have seen many improvements, we have also seen many well-intended but harmful efforts that actually increase danger.
For example, there is currently litigation against public safety officials in Iowa because a school employee alleges that serious injury occurred while practicing how to attack a gunman. The plaintiff’s school district insurance carrier has already paid on the original injury claim and anticipates that it will have to pay more than one million dollars in additional worker’s compensation claims from other employees who were injured during similar training sessions. To make matters worse, graduates of this training program have tested worse when asked to respond to dynamic school crisis video scenarios than school employees who have received no active shooter training at all. While education and training for school based emergencies continues to evolve and increase in demand, it is imperative that any such program is carefully vetted and proven before implementation in the school community.
In other instances, school officials have purchased school security hardware and technology solutions with unexpected negative outcomes. For example, a number of schools have purchased emergency classroom locking systems only to learn that they are unsafe and are prohibited by state fire codes. One of our clients almost spent several million dollars to equip every classroom in more than 100 schools with one such device before learning that its installation would result in a fire code violation. It is important that any modifications to the building be considered and reviewed by police and fire officials.
Fortunately, there have also been many success stories. Our analysts have seen numerous examples where school and public safety officials have dramatically improved their school safety, security and emergency preparedness measures. How have these communities been effective in avoiding pitfalls?
The primary factor we have observed involves a formal, thorough and thoughtful all-hazards assessment process. This approach can help schools avoid the often highly emotive thinking that has resulted in the ineffective strategies that we have seen. Taking the time to conduct a proper annual all-hazards safety, security, climate, culture and emergency preparedness assessment can not only help to save time and money, but can save lives as well.
The Author of 27 books on school safety, Michael Dorn’s school safety work has taken him to Canada, Mexico, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Michael serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. Michael welcomes reader feedback at www.safehavensinternational.org