Distraction or Good Sense for School Security?


Ohio Teacher Melissa Cairns is in trouble for Facebook photos of her middle school students with their mouths covered with duct tape. The photo includes the caption, “Finally found a way to keep them quiet.”


The school administration acknowledges that the tape was part of a joke, but are considering termination. Two concerns are that there was duct tape present in the classroom and that the students’ privacy was jeopardized.


At a time when so much attention is focused on school security and safety, this seems like something of a diversion. By all accounts, the students willingly participated and it probably made the day more interesting and school a bit more fun. The presence of duct tape is hardly a concern – I’d be more concerned about the screening and background of the teachers and school employees. While the tape could be used for harm, so can many other normal household items if someone were so inclined.
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As for privacy violations, I would wager that those students involved probably post far more on their own social media websites than what was on the teacher’s photo. They probably were connected via Facebook as friends. The real question is whether or not there was a harmful privacy violation. Were the students’ grades exposed or personal information on home addresses or medical allergies, etc. put online? That is probably the real intent behind whatever policy the school has in place and should be the focus of any hearings to determine the teacher’s employment at the school.


As a society, we allow ourselves to be sidetracked and distracted from our primary goals far too often. It seems that some issues that really pose no threat become a major concern that outstrips common sense. There was a student in a kindergarten class a few years ago that was expelled or nearly so for bringing a tiny Lego person to the class with a little Lego gun. There are the cases of students bringing plastic knives for their lunch being suspended or in trouble.


 This incident should have been a straightforward matter to investigate without the media attention. The focus should be on any policy violations as well as any real harm done. It would be interesting to know what the students involved actually think of this case. Knowing my own kids and their teachers, I imagine that the students enjoyed the prank and are upset that their teacher is no longer part of the classroom.


Remember to keep your focus on the true intent of your security and safety policies and not to be distracted by the minor bumps that come along.
 

 

Eric Smith, CPP is the leading authority on organizational self-defense.  He has extensive experience in law enforcement as well as security management.  Eric is available for staff education and security awareness training as well as business coaching to help organizations provide safe workplaces.  To learn more email eric@businesskarate.com.

 

 

If you would like to reprint this post, please contact Eric at eric@businesskarate.com. 

The Craze and Fads of Infamous Crimes and Killers


Currently, the top issue in most security or law enforcement publications and websites is the threat of active shooters. Since the horrific murders at Sandy Hook Elementary, the public’s attention has also been drawn back to the topic of active shooters.



Active shooters have certainly become the “crime du jour.” The danger in this is that other would-be murderers will fantasize about mass shootings as the way to carry out some high-publicity and hideous crime. If you look back at past decades, it seems that other trends in crimes have captivated the public and most likely, in some cases, attracted the criminal mind to that particular offense in a search for notoriety.


In the 1930’s, bootleggers and gangsters of the likes of Al Capone filled the headlines. After prohibition, some of the most famous criminals were known for bank robberies and the willingness to shoot it out with police – eventually only to be on the losing end, such as Bonnie and Clyde or John Dillinger.


In the 1960’s, killers turned to assassination as the means to build a name for themselves and garner attention. Some of the assassinations of the period remain the most notorious and well-known today, such as Martin Luther King, Robert and John Kennedy.


The decade of the 70’s saw a move into hijackings as a way to get attention and try to build attention around a cause. The decade also brought us some infamous serial killers, such as Ted Bundy. Throughout the 80’s, serial killers struck fear with the likes of Dennis Rader, as the Bind/Torture/Kill (BTK) killer and Jeffery Dahmer, who was known for necrophilia and even eating his victims.


The 1990’s brought us Columbine and one of the more heinous cases of an active shooter. Since then, we’ve seen many forms of mass murder from China, Norway and in the U.S. Churches, hospitals, Amish schools and colleges have all been targets, culminating most recently in Sandy Hook.


Of course, this is hardly a scientific analysis of criminal mindsets. Many of these criminals tracked the news stories about what they had done or had left messages stating that they hoped to top the last major violent crime with more death and destruction left behind.


This criminal evolution or progression will undoubtedly continue. There is an old saying that generals try to re-fight the last war. It is important to be alert to new tactics that killers may use to commit the latest hideous and disgusting crime to top the charts…at least until the next one after that.



Eric Smith, CPP is the leading authority on organizational self-defense.  He has extensive experience in law enforcement as well as security management.  Eric is available for staff education and security awareness training as well as business coaching to help organizations provide safe workplaces.  To learn more email eric@businesskarate.com.


 

If you would like to reprint this post, please contact Eric at eric@businesskarate.com. 

Real Solutions to Active Shooters


After every tragedy, there is a very real risk that only knee-jerk solutions will be offered. More often than not, this is driven by politicians eager to look like they are doing something to solve the problem.

The recent murders at Sandy Hook Elementary have sparked a similar response. The focus has been on gun control, even while at the same time, the same people calling for gun control will admit that it would not have helped prevent this tragic case. It is interesting that in online surveys of security professionals and police officers the vast majority do not agree with further gun control or restrictions. It is also noteworthy that the very same week this attack occurred, one man in China stabbed 22 students and a teacher in what has become something of a pattern there.

If, as a society, we are going to make true strives to stop school shootings, then it is crucial to do a realistic assessment of what happened, what could have been done, what should have been known and how do we prevent this in the future.

In healthcare, after a serious incident, those involved work together to do a root cause analysis (RCA) to come up with a fix. There are a number of ways to do this and generally involve debriefing the incident to find all the events that led to the problem at hand. Asking why each stage happened and looking for solutions at each step is common.

There are some potential steps that will help address the issue and help prevent further tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook.

1.      Focus on the suspect. In many of these horrific shootings, there are some common characteristics of the killers. They have been described as intelligent, often have mental disorders, interested in Goth-style in many cases and very anti-social. Any individuals fitting a combination of these traits should be closely watched, both officially and unofficially. Neighbors, relatives and parents are the first line of defense if someone fits this profile. Once mental health workers become involved, they need to be able to alert law enforcement and follow up must be done.

2.     Along these lines, mental health issues must be taken seriously. For years, there has been talk of the revolving door of the justice system, where repeat offenders are quickly released back into society. The same has become true of mental health patients. Anyone making any kind of suicidal or homicidal statement is brought to the emergency room and quickly released. Part of that problem is the number of people who use that as an excuse to try and get drugs, attention or just a meal and warm bed for a short time.

3.     Schools should have better access control in place. This does not just include exterior access, but even individual classrooms should be easily locked and secured so a gunman cannot easily shoot into nor get into a classroom.

4.     End the ‘victim’ mentality. Police often warn people not to try and resist criminals. While this may be wise in the case of a simple property crime, there is an obligation to help and even encourage people to fight back when in danger. Whether there is an active shooter in a theater, shopping mall, church or school, resistance can distract and delay a shooter and may be enough to stop him completely. In many of these cases, the shooter commits suicide as police arrive, so anything that can delay a shooter and buys time creates more opportunity to survive.

5.     Look at ways to increase security and law enforcement presence in schools. Armed intervention has been used to stop about half of all active shooters per a study done by NYPD. It may not be feasible to place police officers in every school, but even random placement along the lines of the air marshal program may be deterrent. Instead of police sitting at speed traps, redirecting patrols to schools at random could be a lifesaver.

There is no one simple answer to the problem even if it is politically convenient. True solutions will include a multi-faceted approach. No matter what the outcome, it is a reminder that security is a serious affair and needs to be treated as such.

 

 

Eric Smith, CPP is the leading authority on organizational self-defense.  He has extensive experience in law enforcement as well as security management.  Eric is available for staff education and security awareness training as well as business coaching to help organizations provide safe workplaces.  To learn more email eric@businesskarate.com.

 

 

If you would like to reprint this post, please contact Eric at eric@businesskarate.com.