School Districts have an Opportunity BEFORE Violence
Operating a school district in today’s world is becoming increasingly complex. Due to technology, the environment that we all exist in is changing at a rapid rate. 24/7 access to information, as well as constantly changing devices and applications, makes it difficult to control the vulnerabilities and exposures that the students, faculty and staff of a school district face.
In the past decade, school boards and management have faced an ever-increasing workload when it comes to issues surrounding the safety and security of the school community. In addition, with federal and state mandates eating up more and more of the budget, the finances necessary to do appropriate planning, training and exercises is often difficult to find. That said, with parents, unions, teachers and others more and more aware of the active shooter, sexual misconduct, bullying, and other behavioral issues, there is an expectation that superintendents and school boards are doing everything in their power to keep their constituents safe.
In today’s world almost everyone carries a smart phone, children included. This gives them unlimited access to information, but also makes everyone a publisher. It is the rare circumstance that does not wind up recorded in some way. The national news solicits this information. Therefore, almost every event receives some type of news coverage. This continual bombardment raises the level of awareness, and the expectation of every community member. It also pushes those less stable members of the school (or any) community to take action.
How do we ensure that our district is not the next one on the nightly news?
Often, school boards and superintendents ask “How do we stop the madness?” In years past it was easy enough for a board to take the position that it has never happened here, and therefore it never will. That type of “head in the sand” mentality will not be tolerated by anyone in the school community, nor in the courts.
Running a school district, to a best practices standard, requires a culture of preparedness. From the top down, the board and the superintendent must establish safety and security as a priority. Regardless of the district size or budget, every school board must ensure that an effective vulnerability and threat analysis has been conducted, appropriate planning has been put in place, every member of the school community has been trained, and testing has been done to ensure the “actionability” of all plans.
Most serious issues faced by schools are preceded by significant warning signs. Whether talking about active shooter and weapons, sexual misconduct or other behavioral issues, there are real opportunities for school districts to intercede before an individual feels the need to bring a gun to school or physically abuse another. Having in place best practice level programs for behavioral risk/threat assessment, predictive intelligence including social media monitoring, anonymous reporting, and other systems will ensure that a district can stop the madness before it begins.