Unfortunately, many people do not know the differences between security and safety because so many security solutions have been misrepresented or misunderstood.
For over 30 years, I have had the privilege to assist hundreds and hundreds of organizations with multiple Security related technologies, services, vendors and solutions. For the most part, Security related efforts are understood by most people because Security efforts are focused primarily at REACTING to a risk or threat at your front door and/or REACTING to an incident or tragedy in progress. For example, Security related efforts include doors / locks (to keep people/threats out), cameras (to record threats at your door and provide evidence after the incident or tragedy), security alarms and security sensors (to let you know a threat is onsite), visitor management systems (to screen threats at your front door), security and panic rooms, panic buttons, mass notification systems, armed guards, armed staff and many other Security efforts are focused at REACTING to some risk, threat, person or evil monster at your front door.
Safety is different, MUCH DIFFERENT. Safety is PREVENTING incidents and concerning behaviors from escalating into more serious events and tragedies and PREVENTING risks and threats from getting to your front door.
For schools and colleges (and organizations too), creating and maintaining a safer learning and working environment is more about PREVENTING incidents and making sure students and staff do not come face to face with risks, threats and evil at their front door instead of REACTING to risks, threats and evil.
And here is the really good news… PREVENTING is possible as post-event incident reports (like the Virginia Tech Review Panel Report and Safe Schools Initiative Report from the Department of Education / Secret Service and numerous others) clearly reveal.
And more good news…Smokey the Bear gets it and you can too! Smokey the Bear is all about PREVENTING forest fires and Smokey the Bear says “Only YOU can PREVENT wildfires”. Smokey the Bear understands that PREVENTING does not mean we create a law to ban matches. Smokey the Bear understands that PREVENTING does not mean that we place “armed fire fighters” at every tree in every forest. Smokey the Bear’s prevention strategy focuses on Awareness of consequences, Awareness of best practices, Awareness of surroundings and to speak up when YOU see someone in danger of starting a wildfire…Smokey the Bear understands PREVENTING.
School leaders (as well as college and organizational leaders) can learn a lot from Smokey the Bear when it comes to PREVENTING bullying, cyber bullying, suicides, mass shooters, drugs, alcohol, child abuse, sex abuse, gangs, threats to harm self and others and numerous other Student Safety challenges.
Sadly and inexcusably we continue see and read way too many interviews and articles about failures to prevent where school leaders and government leaders continue to say “they failed to connect the dots” when schools and colleges (governments and organizations) failed to prevent preventable incidents, suicides and tragedies.
As long as school and college leaders continue to implement primarily Security efforts for REACTING to risks and threats rather than Safety efforts for PREVENTING incidents and tragedies, schools, colleges, government and organizations will “fail to connect all the right dots”?
If you want to start PREVENTING incidents and tragedies…visit http://www.tipsprevent.com.
As a follow-up to our previous blog, I wanted to share some real-world solutions that are helping schools proactively PREVENT.
Proactive prevention starts with empowering and equipping students, families, teachers, churches and other community members [like all the people coming forward now who observed “concerning behaviors” with this disconnected young man in Newtown, CT] with the right tools to anonymously or non-anonymously report incidents, concerning behaviors and signs of evil before the evil builds and escalates into a tragedy. Prevention is possible and prevention is very affordable.
A lot of time, money and resources are spent on reactive security equipment, plans and training, yet tragedies are still occurring. For example, schools and colleges invest hundreds of thousands of dollars and even millions of dollars into:
Are these expensive “old school” investments in reactive security and reactive responses really the best way to protect our students, teachers, schools and communities?
And because the bottom line plays such a major role in schools and colleges, how do real-world costs stack up between reacting vs. preventing?
Let’s take a look at some data and evidence from real-world incidents and tragedies and see.
These are just a few examples of evidence clearly showing that preventing incidents and tragedies would have been a lot less expensive to the school’s/college’s bottom line. In addition to these hard costs, think about the significant costs related to reputational damages for each school/college.
Even more costs can add up if bystanders, staff and family members are in need of counseling, mental health resources, and in some cases, health resources from their tragic experiences. Schools and colleges cannot tolerate or afford more tragedies and must change. “Old school reactive efforts” do not provide a safe haven for students or a safety net for adults and do not equip people to do the right things, connect the right dots and proactively prevent preventable incidents.
It is time to change, and the time to start preventing preventable incidents is right now. So what can be done and what is being done to prevent preventable incidents and prevent incidents from escalating and becoming the next tragedy? Real-world success stories provide guidance and solutions that are working in schools and colleges.
Problem: School and College leadership cannot prevent what they don’t know about, and “old school” incident reporting approaches (one-size-fits-all online forms, e-mail links, text messages, general hotlines, drop boxes, etc.) are clearly not the right tools to get the right information to all the right people.
Fact: Statistically, only 1 or 2 out of every 10 incidents are being reported, so 8 or 9 times out of 10 schools/colleges are in reactive mode.
Solution: Schools and colleges are using a new web-based, secure and anonymous prevention platform called TIPS with customizable incident reporting and surveys that are accessible from the school or college web site so the entire community has easy and anytime access to organization specific incident report types (bullying, cyber bullying/drama, weapons, threat to harm self, threat to harm others, child abuse, sexual assault, etc.) with customized forms for each. Then, and this is critical, once the incident report is submitted, the prevention platform must immediately and automatically get the right information to all of the right people in the right places so the “team” can investigate, connect all the right dots, intervene, document and proactively prevent preventable incidents.
Problem: Institutions have incident reports, but still fail to prevent preventable incidents and tragedies.
Fact: All of the following tragedies had incident reports of concerning behaviors: Virginia Tech, Penn State, Tucson, Colorado, South Hadley, Tehachapi, Anoka-Hennepin and many, many more.
Solution: Securely share the right information with the right people, designated by the school or college based on the incident type and school/campus. No meetings, no paper shuffling, no lost e-mails, no yellow sticky notes, no confusion about what actions have or have not been taken. Teams can securely access and document all actions taken, work together to investigate, intervene and prevent incidents and monitor at-risk individuals and incidents so they do not get a chance to escalate into more serious incidents and tragedies.
Problem: Bullying-related consequences and lawsuits are mounting and campuses are not equipped to prevent bullying or prevent consequences or prevent lawsuits.
Fact: South Hadley Public Schools failed to prevent recurring and relentless bullying of a student, which led to the suicide of the student, a $225,000 settlement with the family of the student, negative headlines, reputation damage and other legal fees due to criminal cases involving five students that were named as the bullies. More recently, Pine Plains Central School District was found to be deliberately indifferent for failing to prevent relentless harassment and bullying of a student through high school. The United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd circuit upheld a unanimous decision of a lower court ruling resulting in a $1M judgment.
Business Insurance reported that Penn State University’s expenses in response to the alleged child abuse by former assistant football coach Gerald Sandusky are mounting. A Penn State statement said they are paying nearly $2.5 million for the services of two public relations firms.
The communication firms aim to work with Penn State’s public information officers to provide broad and transparent communications to key stakeholders and support the university through upcoming litigation, according to the statement. “Retaining these communications firms puts us more firmly on the path toward accountability, openness and preserving our reputation as one of the world’s leading research universities,” Penn State President Rodney Erickson said in the statement.
As of Feb 29, Penn State has spent $7,577,643 in legal fees and consulting fees and the legal cases are just getting started.
The majority of the incidents and liabilities at Penn State could have been prevented had PSU invested in a “prevention platform” that would have equipped victims, coaches, supervisors, administration, legal, law enforcement with prevention tools rather than crisis response and other reactive approaches.
In a recent blog I shared how the Virginia Tech tragedy (also preventable according to Virginia Tech Review Panel Report) has cost VT and taxpayers $48.5 MILLION.
“Prevention platforms” cost your bottom line a whole lot less, they help protect reputations and they save lives. Does your organization have a Prevention Plan (to complement your Crisis Response Plan), a Prevention Team (to complement your Incident Response Team) and a Prevention Platform? If you want to be proactive and prevention focused, click here.
Did you see the recent report from the Center for American Progress? The report estimates that the Virginia Tech tragedy cost the university and taxpayers $ 48.2 million. And this cost does not include the “costs” associated with the loss of lives and lives that were changed forever.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and I hope all school and university administrators are paying close attention to this wisdom and this new report.
According to the report, the university was responsible for most of the costs – $ 38.77 million – and the state of Virginia paid around $ 8.87 million and rest was covered by local government and the federal government in the form of grants.
How the $48.2 million breaks down is shown in this Campus Safety article.
Today is the 5th anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre that resulted in 32 deaths and another 25 wounded. According to the Virginia Tech Review Panel report (which cost $ 465,000), this tragedy could have been prevented and the report provided nearly 100 recommendations for university leaders to implement.
So why do we continue to see incidents, headlines and tragedies in schools and universities?
The facts are pretty clear that most schools and universities are still very “reaction focused”. Most schools and universities have Crisis Plans and Emergency Response Plans, but few have a Prevention Plan. Most schools and universities rushed out to purchase Mass Notification Systems after the VT tragedy, but few schools and universities invested in Prevention platforms to equip their students, faculty, staff, Safety Teams, law enforcement, legal, compliance and community resources with tools to “connect-the-dots, silos, red flags and suspicious actions” or the tools to get the right information to the right people in the right place at the right time so the right people can do the right things, which is the most efficient and cost effective way to intervene and prevent expensive and embarrassing tragedies.
To learn more about Awareity’s innovative and proven Prevention platforms and tools, click here.
Time is our greatest asset, time is limited and we all have the same amount of time.
What we do with the time we have is critical to each of us and to those around us too. And unlike movies, cartoons and commercials…in real life we cannot go back in time.
We cannot go back in time and listen to an at-risk student that committed suicide.
We cannot go back in time and prevent bullying or cyberbullying that already took place.
We cannot go back in time and prevent violence, drug abuse and sexual assaults that already took place.
We cannot go back in time and give a student the safe learning environment they needed to succeed.
We cannot go back in time and improve a student’s achievement potential.
With so many alarming trends in schools, everyone seems to agree improving student achievement and building and maintaining a safe learning environment in our schools and colleges is an urgent need.
We cannot go back in time and change all of the alarming trends and dangerous incidents occurring in our schools and colleges….so for the sake of all students and for the sake of time…now is the time to take action, not tomorrow, next semester or next year.
To learn how you can do the right thing and equip everyone in your school or college to take action now…click here.
With the recent passing of football coach, Joe Paterno, Joe he can now rest in peace knowing he touched the lives of many as a coach at Penn State for 62 of his 85 years on this planet.
The horrific scandal at Penn State University will no doubt have an effect on the legacy of JoePa (his nickname suggesting his fatherly quality to his players and students too), some will judge JoePa based on what they know and others will judge JoePa based on what they don’t know.
For me, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize Joe Paterno for his foresight and humility to do an interview with the Washington Post before he passed away. You see this interview could and should become one of the most valuable lessons learned for college leaders and organizational leaders around the world. JoePa shared how he felt inadequate to handle the situation that was brought to his attention:
“I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was,” Paterno told the Washington Post in an interview published Saturday. “So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn’t work out that way.”
“I called my superiors and I said, ‘hey, we got a problem I think. Would you guys look into it? Because I didn’t know, you know … I had never had to deal with something like that. And I didn’t feel adequate,”
So what lessons learned did Joe Paterno’s interview provide?
First, if Joe Paterno worked at a college over 60 years and was not clear on university procedures and felt inadequate to do the right thing…how many people in your organization feel inadequate? Have you equipped everyone to do the right thing? This is a significant lesson learned that exposes how 20th century tools (binders, handbooks, annual training, intranets, etc.) can leave your people feeling inadequate and ill-equipped to do right thing as 21st century challenges, risks and situations are changing continuously and the consequences of not doing the right thing can be devastating.
Second, Joe Paterno also revealed in an interview: “In hindsight, I wish I had done more.”
College leaders, school leaders and organizational leaders must take immediate and proactive steps to equip their people with 21st century tools to ensure no one feels inadequate, but is equipped to take appropriate actions. No one wants the burden of wishing they had done more when it comes to helping a child, a friend, an employee or anyone in their community.
Click here to learn more about proven and award-winning 21st century tools.
Last week, Secretary Arne Duncan from the Department of Education, along with several other agencies, sponsored the second annual national summit on bullying.
Multiple federal government representatives reminded the attendees that bullying remains a priority and that is good…Unfortunately we have heard similar messages at multiple White House Summits and multiple conferences.
So based on the advice of Benjamin Franklin who said:
Well done is always better than well said.
Beginning this week, now is the time to take the next step from “well said” to “well done”. To help with this transformation, I will identify examples of “well saids” along with potential ways a school leader might take next steps towards “well done”.
For example, Secretary Duncan said he would like to see a provision that calls for surveying students about bullying. Provisions are a “well said”, but provisions do not do anything. Next steps towards “well done” could include utilizing the award-winning TIPS platform from Awareity which offers anonymous and 100% customizable web-based surveying so each school can tailor the questions as needed.
Secretary Duncan said students are a “huge missing part of the equation” on addressing bullying. This is another “well said” and I agree. Last week before the conference started, Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old from New York, killed himself after pleading for help for months. Jamey was trying to be part of the equation and even recorded a video for “Its Gets Better”. Unfortunately the school did not ‘connect the dots’ and it seems the right people at the school did not reach out. It seems the school was not prepared and did not investigate, did not stop the harassment, did not eliminate the hostile environment and did not prevent the harassment from recurring. Next steps towards “well done” could include the proven TIPS platform which allows ANY and ALL STUDENTS, family, teachers, staff and others to be part of the equation by anonymously reporting bullying incidents, suspicious activities, student safety concerns and etc. The TIPS platform also empowers the school’s Safety Team to confidentially review all incident reports, investigate all reports, record all actions taken by team members, track all at-risk individuals, set automated reminders for team members and search all reports related to an individual or incident.
Researchers at the conference say more research is needed. While additional research may be helpful, students are being bullied and students are taking their lives. It is time for “well done”.
Researchers also seemed to agree on another “well said”, that as much as the national movement to curb bullying has done to draw attention to the issue, addressing bullying may need to be a very localized effort. I agree and as stated previously, TIPS empowers each school the ability to customize and localize everything…because there is no one-size-fits-all.
One school counseling specialist noted that most schools do not have the time to research programs and outcomes. The school counseling specialist pointed out that what works in one school is not going to work in other schools even in the same county. She also mentioned there is another frontier… “How do we breed resilience in our children up front?” The TIPS platform offers a unique and proven Awareness Vault that empowers schools to ensure all students can access a curricula that helps them better understand bullying, risks, threats, consequences, policies, laws and responsibilities.
The next frontier and next steps involve:
Are your school administrators willing to take the next steps?
Two high profile incidents this week revealed that despite updates to the Clery Act and Title IX requirements, campuses continue to struggle to proactively identify warning signs and red flags and gather information and reports from their people (students, staff, faculty, law enforcement, counselors, etc.).
Penn State – Lawmakers are investigating whether Penn State violated the Clery Act when it did not report child sexual abuse allegations regarding a former football coach to the proper authorities. Several coaches were aware of the allegations, but did not report to the police.
University of Idaho - University of Idaho officials say at least one police officer knew of alleged gun threats against a graduate student before she was shot and killed by a professor she had been dating. The student had complained to the university in June that professor Ernesto Bustamante had threatened her with a firearm three separate times during the relationship.
It is critical for institutions to connect the dots across all individuals and threat team members (students, staff, faculty, counselors, law enforcement, parents, etc.) ongoing and ensure that all threats, risks, warning signs, etc. are reported to the appropriate personnel and investigated thoroughly to determine the appropriate level of response. Too many times, we see after the fact the warning flags and reports that existed, but that were not connected.
Comprehensive threat assessment and behavioral intervention programs need to extend across the entire campus community (faculty and staff, as well as students). If TAT/BIT teams can be notified immediately at the first sign of violence, aggression, threat, etc., and have the tools necessary to connect the dots across campuses, locations, departments, etc., many of these tragedies may be able to be prevented.
I think one of the biggest challenges that may have been a factor in each of these incidents is a lack of clear procedure and policy on reporting incidents. Higher education institutions must clearly define individual responsibilities for reporting illegal activities, suspicious behaviors, red flags, threats, etc. and ensure that all individuals involved understand their roles and requirements (and the consequences for a failure to report).
To learn more about how your institution can help your campus community come together and develop a culture of prevention, please click here.
Is your school prepared to respond accordingly to reports of bullying and harassment? Are you prepared to investigate, stop, prevent, eliminate hostile environments, take appropriate actions and document your actions? Are your school leaders aware of the different types of bullying that may be creating hostile learning environments in your school?
Studies show for students to achieve academically, they must feel secure and comfortable in their learning environment. A recent study from the University of Virginia revealed the academic performance of students in schools with persistent bullying may suffer because students are less engaged in learning due to fears about bullying or a greater level of school disorder.
According to recent statistics, up to 33 percent of students are being bullied each year and 60 percent of teachers/staff are witnessing bullying two or more times in a month.
Let’s do the math. If you have 3,000 students, then approximately 1,000 or so students could be facing bullying issues … are you taking appropriate actions? If you have 200 teachers and 60 percent of them are witnessing bullying twice a month that could be 240 incidents a month or 2,160 incidents a school year. Are your students and teachers reporting ongoing incidents and do you have the documentation and legal-ready documentation to prove you have taken the appropriate follow-up actions?
On October 6, 2010, the OCR “Dear Colleague” letter sent to all schools clearly defined all schools who know or reasonably should know about student bullying/harassment must:
- Investigate the incident
- Take immediate action to stop the harassment
- Take action to prevent the recurrence of harassment
- Eliminate the hostile environment
- Address its effects
- Take appropriate actions to revise policies and re-train students, faculty, staff and parents
With the new school year underway, the Department of Justice and Department of Education have made it clear that the OCR requirements will be enforced. Consider that a seven-month investigation at Tehachapi Unified School District is being called a landmark case with serious and expensive consequences for school boards and administrators. On July 1, 2011, a “resolution agreement” concluded that TUSD “did not adequately investigate or otherwise respond” to claims of bullying/harassment which led to the suicide of a 13-year old student.
On July 5, 2011 the student’s mother filed a lawsuit naming the school district, the superintendent, the principal, the vice principal and four teachers, seeking compensation for wrongful death damages, medical expenses and punitive damages. Several lawsuits have been filed at a Minnesota school district after seven students committed suicide in one year and a federal investigation is pending.
School leaders across the nation have been put on notice. And because most schools are already dealing with fiscal challenges, schools cannot afford suicides, undocumented incidents, federal investigations, and lawsuits. Therefore, prevention must become a top priority and prevention is more critical now than ever before.
How is your school encouraging students and parents to proactively report bullying/harassment and ensuring that all actions taken are documented with legal due diligence to meet ongoing OCR requirements? Are your school and community leaders preventing the preventable?
Based on studies, incidents and lawsuits, Awareity, Inc. has developed an innovative prevention platform that is helping school leaders take appropriate actions and document all actions taken for compliance and legal due diligence. TIPS (Threat Assessment, Incident Management and Prevention Services) provides schools with the tools to empower students, parents, staff, faculty, community members, etc. to report suspicious incidents, warning signs, red flags, etc. TIPS also empowers safety team members to easily and securely access incident reports, share documents, set reminders and document they have taken the required and appropriate actions and responses to meet OCR guidelines.
According to bullying and suicide prevention expert, Dr. Scott Poland, “TIPS is truly the most comprehensive incident management system available for K12 schools to not only receive anonymous reports from their students and parents, but ensure all appropriate personnel are notified to connect the dots and determine the most effective response. TIPS is helping school districts proactively prevent the preventable – suicides, bullying, violence, truancy, depression and more.”
Cross-posted from the Public School Risk Insistute – Prevention Link
In case you missed it, federal authorities are investigating “incidents involving harassment and bullying” in Minnesota’s largest school district.
The civil rights investigation is underway in Anoka-Hennepin, a suburban Minneapolis school district, and based on the seven-month “landmark federal investigation” that recently ended involving Tehachapi Unified School District in California, the Office of Civil Rights is serious about protecting the rights and safety of students.
School leaders at every school in the U.S. should be taking a serious look at their ability to prevent the preventable involving harassment, bullying, cyber bullying and other alarming trends in schools. School leaders should review their ability to prove they are following guidance outlined in the October 26, 2010 Office of Civil Rights Dear Colleague Letter (DCL), because recent resolution agreements make it clear the OCR is enforcing the DCL that was sent to K-12 schools and Higher Education institutions too. (A federal investigation was just completed at Notre Dame too)
One suicide is one too many! The federal investigations at Tehachapi and Notre Dame involved student suicides and at Anoka-Hennepin, there have been a string of 7 suicides in less than 2 years.
Now is the time to lead by example, not with words or new policies.
Now is the time to replace outdated status quo methodologies with 21st century platforms that empower schools (leaders, faculty, staff, students, parents, community members, etc.) to prevent the preventable.
Now is the time to start doing more than the minimum necessary.
Now is the time to start listening, investigating, intervening, preventing and making a difference.
To request Awareity’s 3 page Executive Briefing on the recent Landmark Investigation to share with your schools leaders and administrators, please visit: http://www.awareity.com/public/briefingrequest.asp