Security of our Schools Part II

 In last week’s blog I wrote about school security and the need to begin the discussion on the subject of order. Order needed to be paramount over all other concerns to truly achieve a secure learning environment. I asked, of what should order consist? I offered, first and foremost,establishing rules. In this week’s discussion I would offer a continuation of a natural next step and that is: What is safety?  There is a great deal of discussion over the subject of safety today. It flows throughout our daily lives from our residences, commuting to and performing in the workplace. We have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in our homes, airbags and warning devices in our vehicles, and occupational safety rules and evacuation or shelter-in-place procedures that govern us in our places of employment.   But are we truly safe in any of these places? So I think the important questions to answer are these: How does one feel safe? What is safe?  But the most important question should be this: What are the risk factors that we face?

   So rather than beginning the discussion about safety, I believe it should instead center in and around the risk factors that are present in all the environments in which we find ourselves. What are those risk factors? I offer a sampling: Do you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home? When was the last time you checked them to determine their operational condition? Has a vehicle you presently owned had an automaker’s recall, i.e., Takata airbag, and did you respond to the recall? Are you adhering to the operational maintenance of your vehicle, as required by the owner’s manual? When was the last time you checked the tire pressure of your vehicle’s tires? Do you come to a complete stop at red lights and stop signs? Do you wear a safety helmet when riding a bike? If so, is it worn properly? Do you always use the crosswalks and cross at intersections? Are you up to date on and faithful in observing the safety rules at work, i.e., when to evacuate or to shelter-in-place? Do you know the proper actions during an earthquake? During the last workplace fire drill, did you evacuate and report to the proper personnel and location away from the structure? Do you wear a life jacket when riding in a small water craft? Have you ever seen something unsafe or suspicious and not reported it? Do you have firearms in your home? Are they secured in order to prevent under-aged and unsupervised children from gaining access to them? Do you know your state’s laws should you shoot another person? Are you thoroughly versed on your civil liability under those same circumstances? Have you recently changed or with any frequency reset a password to an account in order to thwart atheft of personal information? Are you employing complicated passwords?  Now if you answered these questions truthfully, you are surely falling short of doing your part to ensure you are safe and meeting reasonable expectations of preventing injury to others. 

   So in a follow up to those questions you must consider this: What due diligence are you applying? Especially if you are responsible for others either as an adult or supervisor or in any position that implies such accountability. In many of those situations you have moral considerations to confront. What are those moral considerations? What is your personal responsibility from a moral standpoint?  What actions are necessary to reflect a moral frameworkas it meets the threshold of one’s due diligence? What is due diligence? Has prudence been applied? What is prudence under these circumstances?

   In order to answer the key question at the end of my opening paragraph, and all those that have followed, it needs to be said that safety is more than common sense! The proof that this is so can be found in the evidence of a couple of examples I will offer: we have established safety officers in the public and private sector organizations; there are required workplace safety training programs, notices to be read and signed as a condition of and in continuing employment; established safety measures that flow from written procedures in workplaces, schools and public facilities; specific requirements under any states’ traffic infraction code that stipulate the manner of transporting certain aged children in proper restraint devices, the use of hands-free cellular devices, the wearing of seat belts and a myriad of other regulations that govern us daily. So are we safe? 

    Well, consider this for a moment. In reviewing the shootings that took place in our nation’s primary, secondary and post-secondary schools, there has been no discernible decrease in these incidents from 1999 when the Columbine High School shooting occurred. There was an armed law enforcement assigned to that Littleton, CO school on that day. And in most all of theincidents that have since followed there have been law enforcement school resource officers at the locations. In very few have the officer on duty stopped such an incident. Public secondary schools have had assigned SROs---police officers or sheriff deputies---for years. Some have more than one assigned. Some school districts are now assigning law enforcement officers to primary schools. Universities and colleges have some form of public safety as well. And no reduction has been noted! The expertise and proficiency of these officers is expected to be top shelf! Whether it is no one can say for certain. Each state sets their own standard for commissioning police officers and each department has its own set of policies and budgeted monies for training its officers. Now some school districts across the nation are either arming or considering arming teachers and administrators or hiring private security guards. All these individuals will mostly be armed with handguns. Handguns vs. a long gun which in most cases has been the weapon of choice of most of these armed assailants. That is absurd! And then there is the likelihood of careless acts, a negligent discharge or worse - shooting of an innocent person or persons! Securing these firearms and gaining access to them in a timely manner will also be factors to face. As to contracted private security officers, minimum regulatory requirements are the norm in all 50 states. These security personnel not required to meet the same level of firearms proficiency and qualification requirements as law enforcement officers. The overall requirementfor training privately uniformed security does vary from state to state and is conducted by the employing company. The arming of private citizens varies drastically from state to state as well. Then there is the factor of insurance. What insurance company will write a policy? To whom do they assign responsibility? Those schools that are self-insured confront not only the issue of risk but due diligence under this climate.

   In the end, so many questions. What are the answers? Until the answers are forthcoming and the risks are clearly known, and all due diligence is completed, we are back to last week’s key topic and that is determining order. Order must be established and furthermore ensure a well-trained law enforcement officer is posted and aware.