Failure to Prevent Costs University Millions

Posted In Campus Safety, Incident Reporting, Legal, Risk Management on April 30th, 2012
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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.


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Lessons Learned from Joe Paterno and Penn State

Posted In Campus Safety, Incident Reporting, Legal, Risk Management, School Safety on January 23rd, 2012
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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.

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Alibis Don’t Save Lives or Prevent Bullying

Posted In Legal, Risk Management, School Safety on November 15th, 2011
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When it comes to anti-bullying efforts, most seem to be in agreement that we need to do something about bullying. It is everyone’s moral obligation to lookout for the safety of students and do the right thing.   However, in New Jersey, there is a debate on new legislation and school requirements.

On November 1, 2011, the Executive Director at New Jersey Association of School Administrators, Mr. Richard Bozza, submitted an ‘Opinion’ piece discussing the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights that started by saying, “THERE’S NO question about it.  We need to do something about bullying.”

Mr. Bozza’s opinion also stated the unfunded mandate requires schools to meet a long list of requirements.  Mr. Bozza’s opinion referenced several concerns with implementing the law including an 18-page compliance checklist, paperwork, reviews and legal expenses.

On November 8, 2011, Mr. Stuart Green from the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying submitted his counter ‘Opinion’ saying. “Addressing bullying is not a matter of money. It is a moral obligation.”


The solution begins with equipping everyone with the right tools they need to prevent bullying. Schools need innovative tools and platforms that replace inefficient, ineffective and expensive status quo approaches that Mr. Bozza describes.

For example, traditional training approaches are expensive and time consuming. However, innovative web-based tools cost MANY TIMES LESS than the expenses schools are incurring with paper handouts, trainers, facilities, overtime and lost productivity costs.

Yes, paperwork costs are expensive, so why are schools creating more paperwork these days??  Innovative platforms eliminate paperwork and improve efficiencies and improve results.

Yes, legal fees are expensive, but anti-bullying policies are needed with or without the law, so WHY wouldn’t the New Jersey Association of School Administrators provide templates with customization guidance to their members??

Delays from scheduled school vacations, staff vacations and police involvement…once again the status quo approaches Mr. Bozza refers to are inefficient, ineffective and expensive.  Innovative tools empower School Safety Team members to securely login from anywhere and review incidents as needed without delays. Innovative tools enable School Safety Teams to easily document actions, investigations, prevention efforts, follow up efforts and review previous incidents saving tremendous amounts of time, resources and money compared to traditional approaches.

The steps in the 18-page checklist Mr. Bozza mentions should already be taking place in schools, however an innovative platform of tools can equip school personnel to save time, money and resources.

The bottom line is that schools are spending too much time, resources and money on traditional approaches that lessons learned clearly show are not working.  Schools can both reduce their costs and “do something about bullying”.  I expect more from leaders, because alibis do not save lives…or money.


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The Next Federal Investigation – Minnesota School District

Posted In Campus Safety, Education, Education, Legal, School Safety on July 20th, 2011
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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:

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Who is Responsible for the Ethics of an Organization?

Posted In Human Resources, Legal, Regulatory Compliance on June 30th, 2011
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I recently came across a discussion between Markkula Center for Applied Ethics’ Executive Director Kirk Hanson and Craig Nordlund, former general counsel of Agilent Technologies.  Nordlund believes the concern for ethics must be shared by everyone in the organization, but suggests ethics programs will be ineffective without leadership from the company’s top executives.

It is hard to argue with his comment stating “ethics programs will not work unless there is leadership on ethics from the company’s top executives”.

However, lessons learned and incidents seem to clearly reveal that leadership from the company’s top executives is not enough.

So why is creating an ethics culture so difficult for organizations? Perhaps ethics training is not enough or not even part of the solution?

The definition of training is a process to teach or learn a skill or job…and like the title of the article (Creating an Ethical Business Culture), I would agree that ethics is more of a culture than a job or skill.

Training is typically a once-a-year task on a learning management system with a one-size-fits-all general training module that everyone clicks through aimlessly because it is on the checklist of items that their organization thinks they need to do.

The definition of awareness seems to be a much better fit if an organization is serious about creating an ethical business culture. Awareness is to be aware of the difference between two versions, watchful and wary and having or showing realization and perception or knowledge. Awareness is not taught once-a-year, awareness (especially situational awareness) is an ongoing process that must be specific to the organization’s culture and supported by top executives.

Every individual is part of the ethical business culture so organizations must also make sure they have a platform to manage, update, communicate, document and measure situational awareness at the indiviidual level…because most everyone knows if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.

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Va. Tech Gets Max $55K Fine for Late Warning

Posted In Campus Safety, Emergency Management, Incident Reporting, Legal, Regulatory Compliance, Risk Management, School Safety on April 19th, 2011
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Virginia Tech was fined the maximum fine allowed under the Clery Act of $55,000 for waiting almost two hours before warning students, faculty and staff of an active shooter on campus.

Lessons Learned: Colleges and Universities must develop, implement and follow clearly defined policies and procedures for notifying students and staff in emergency situations.  School Administrators may want to create customizable, organizational and situational specific templates prior to an incident so the warning messages are already defined and the appropriate processes are understood by all appropriate personnel.   Organizations must also have customized emergency and crisis management plans and ensure all individuals (students, faculty, staff, administration, law enforcement, etc.) understand their roles and responsibilities before, during and after an incident occurs.  Lastly, lessons learned clearly teach schools that proactive and prepared prevention efforts are much less expensive than the incidents, fines, lawsuits and reputational damages.

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Dept. of Education Releases Handbook to Help Higher-Ed Campuses Meet Safety Reporting Standards

Posted In Campus Safety, Emergency Management, Incident Reporting, Legal, Regulatory Compliance, Risk Management, School Safety on April 19th, 2011
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The U.S. Department of Education released the Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting providing step-by-step procedures, examples, and references for higher education institutions to follow in meeting campus safety and security requirements.

Lessons Learned:  College and University administrators are overwhelmed with responsibilities for HEOA, FERPA, HIPAA, Clery Act, OCR ‘Dear Colleague’ Letters, and much more and therefore guidance from the Federal Government can be helpful.  It is critical for School Administrators to utilize resources and develop comprehensive campus safety programs and create a culture of compliance and preparedness that is ongoing.  Traditional methodologies are clearly not working based on new handbooks, new regulations and mounting obligations and traditional tools are not capable of keeping up with all the new changes, so School Administrators must be open to new tools and new ideas to ensure better safety in schools.

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Fighting Bullying with Lawsuits

Posted In Legal, School Safety on April 19th, 2011
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Lawsuits targeting school districts for allowing students to be bullied by other students are escalating.

Lessons Learned: With new guidelines outlined in an OCR “Dear Colleague” Letter and an increase in bullying, harassment, discrimination and school violence, schools need to be aware of the potential risk of lawsuits.  School leaders must ensure all individuals (staff, faculty, parents, students, counselors, etc.) understand their roles and responsibilities for preventing and responding to bullying and how to report incidents of bullying.  Schools must implement comprehensive and ongoing protocols for responding to ALL incidents of bullying and cyber bullying with legal-ready documentation to avoid “deliberate indifference” claims and lawsuits.

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Bullying Prevention (or Procrastination) Plans?

Posted In Incident Reporting, Legal, Regulatory Compliance, School Safety on January 12th, 2011
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Under a law signed by Governor Patrick in May 2010, all Massachusetts schools had a December 31, 2010 deadline for filing comprehensive bullying prevention and intervention plans.

On November 10, only 3 of the 394 school communities had responded.  On December 31, it was reported early in the day that 355 had submitted their plans, but right before the deadline, a flood of plans came in, resulting in 99 percent compliance (only six schools failed to meet the deadline).

I believe 99% compliance is an outstanding result, however I do have a few questions:

  • Were the plans submitted comprehensive?
  • Did the schools take the time to evaluate their individual school cultures, analyze their bullying reports, determine the best way to handle incidents, etc.?
  • Or did they just fill in the blanks in the sample plan provided by the DOE and check off their compliance checklist?


The flood of plans on the deadline reminded me of how students put off their homework until the very last minute and then throw something together just good enough to get a passing grade….

Now that the December 31st deadline has come and gone, lessons learned show that the school’s most difficult steps begin… ensuring their plans are implemented effectively across all appropriate individuals (staff, faculty, students, parents, administration, mental health, school resource officers, law enforcement, etc.).   Numerous lessons learned have also revealed that just having a plan or just having policies and procedures does not prevent incidents and suicides from happening.

If most schools already have plans…why are unwanted, expensive, embarrassing and tragic incidents still occurring in schools?

Systemic weaknesses involving individual level lack of awareness and lack of accountability along with systemic weaknesses with prevention tools and prevention efforts.  To achieve better results, school leaders must understand their individual roles and responsibilities and school leaders must understand the best way to improve prevention are with tips…because it is nearly impossible to prevent any type of incident without tips.  2011 will be a critical year for school leaders and I am passionate about helping school leaders, victims, bystanders, teachers, staff, parents and entire communities to improve their prevention efforts beyond just having plans, programs and traditional incident reporting tools.

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Is Your Incident Reporting System Putting Your Organization At Risk?

Posted In Emergency Management, Incident Reporting, Information Security, Legal, Regulatory Compliance, Risk Management on November 11th, 2010
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How is your incident reporting system working for you? 

Or perhaps the question should be – Is your incident reporting system working against you?

Lessons learned continue to show that organizations find themselves in ‘reaction mode’ more than they are in ‘prevention mode’.  How can this be when most every organization claims to have an incident reporting system in place?

Are traditional incident reporting systems obsolete?

Multiple surveys reveal that 90% of bystanders who witness a bullying incident DO NOT report the incident.  So why aren’t bystanders not reporting incidents?

Perhaps bystanders are not reporting because of one or more of the following reasons:

  • Scared to get involved
  • Not sure how to report incidents
  • Not comfortable with incident reporting options such as paper, in person, phone or text
  • Lack of anonymity when reporting incidents
  • Bystander does not trust the incident reporting system will work
  • Bystander does not trust the organization will take action
  • And many others…


Victims are also reluctant to use traditional incident reporting systems.  Victims want to be heard, but many victims do not trust traditional incident reporting systems due to:

  • They tried using the traditional incident reporting system and nothing happened
  • No anonymous option to report incidents
  • Not knowing who was on the other end of the incident reporting system
  • Afraid their information would not be kept confidential
  • And many others…


Like bullying and cyber bullying, workplace violence incidents seem to be increasing too.  Mounting stress related to economic challenges, job layoffs and mortgage foreclosures continue to affect millions of individuals and families. And some individuals have taken out their frustration on their bosses, their co-workers or their family members where they work….and many of the incidents could have been prevented based on red flags that were discovered after the incident.

Suicides and bullycides seem to be increasing too.  According to statistics from support organizations, 5,000 teenagers commit suicide a year and perhaps as many as 500,000 or more teenagers contemplate suicide or attempt suicide each year.  What if these 5,000 teenagers had a trusted incident reporting option they could have reached out to for help?

So is your traditional incident reporting system really working for you if bystanders are not reporting incidents and victims are not reaching out for help?

Red Flags and Prevention

Without red flags, it is nearly impossible for security teams and threat assessment and intervention teams to prevent incidents from happening.  Yet after almost every bullycide or workplace violence incident, people come forward and say they were aware of multiple suspicious incidents and red flags, but did not report the suspicious incidents because they did not know how to or did not understand what suspicious activities should be reported.  In some cases, people DID report the incidents and unfortunately the organization did not connect the dots.

Legal Defensibility

In our highly regulated and litigious society, victims and their families are taking organizations to court when they fail to respond as mandated.  Many lawsuits brought against organizations cite “deliberate indifference” or the conscious or reckless disregard of the consequences of one’s acts or omissions.

Deliberate indifference is often the result of:

  • Lack of Awareness – meaning people did not know what to do in different situations even though previous incidents, legal obligations and regulatory mandates exist
  • Lack of Follow Through – meaning people knew about the issues, but did not take immediate actions to end the issue and did not take appropriate actions to eliminate the hostile environment and prevent future incidents
  • Failed efforts based on the situation, state mandates or organizational obligations


Experts seem to be in agreement that reacting to incidents is much more expensive (and embarrassing) than preventing the incidents from happening, but prevention requires a more comprehensive suite of incident reporting tools to ensure:

  • Anonymous or non-anonymous incident reporting tools
  • Threat Assessment and Security Team collaboration tools
  • Secure and confidential information sharing tools
  • Situational awareness tools for all appropriate individuals and team members
  • Accessibility options for anytime access to suite of tools
  • Documentation / Reporting tools of entire process for compliance and legal defensibility
  • And adaptability options as needs and situations continue to change


Is your traditional incident reporting system helping you or working against you?

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