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.



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