How Two Oklahoma School Districts are Using Students to Improve Prevention and Intervention Efforts

Posted In Incident Reporting, Risk Management, School Safety on November 22nd, 2012
Tags: , , , , ,


Bullying.  Cyberbullying.  Harassment.  Violence.  Weapons. Truancy.  Student Achievement.  While most school leaders want to focus their attention on the last item mentioned in that list, student achievement, school districts are finding themselves overwhelmed with school safety issues and constantly working to investigate and respond to situations, leaving fewer and fewer resources to improve learning and achievement.

So, what can be done to improve student safety and prevention efforts, and in turn, provide students with an environment they feel secure in to excel and expand their learning objectives?

In many situations, gaps exist between school administrators and policy, and what is actually happening on buses, in locker rooms, in hallways, at sporting events, and online on Facebook.  In fact, in recent studies, 65% of victims said bullying was not reported by them or others to teachers or school officials.  Even when a bullying victim had suffered injury, 40 percent of the time the students said the bullying was not reported.  It is impossible for school leaders to prevent something they don’t know about it, so it is critical for districts to improve these numbers and encourage their student and staff to report ongoing harassment and other concerns.

Many school districts have installed cameras to monitor their environments, which may be necessary, but what if schools also utilized the hundreds (or thousands) of “cameras” they already have walking the halls of their schools each day?

Two Oklahoma School Districts are taking advantage of an innovative incident and risk management service to empower their students, parents and staff to proactively report concerning behaviors to district personnel.  Tulsa Public Schools and Oklahoma City Public Schools are using TIPS, a web-based solution from Awareity, Inc., that allows for the anonymous reporting (via web or phone) of weapons possession, drug/alcohol use, harassment or intimidation, school vandalism, physical assault, threats of violence, suicide risk, abuse or neglect and other incidents.

TIPS ensures all incident reports are tracked, documented and responded to in a proactive manner.  With a web-based platform, school administrators can access on-demand reporting to see if/when reports are made, when team members received and acknowledged each report, and what steps were taken to address the report.  Team members collaborate through the platform to share ongoing findings and help connect all the dots needed to ensure a safe and responsive approach.

At Tulsa Public Schools, Tenna Whitsel, District Coordinator of Student Services, knew their district was not doing enough to comply with the Office of Civil Rights requirements for bullying and harassment.  A Dear Colleague Letter sent to all schools in October 2011, made it clear that all schools are required to investigate bullying incidents and take immediate action to stop harassment and prevent its recurrence.  If the school knows or reasonably should know about student harassment and fails to address its effects and take appropriate action, they are opening themselves up to federal investigations and expensive lawsuits.

Whitsel took immediate steps to implement the TIPS platform at the start of the second semester in the 2011-2012 school year.  In its first 6 months of use, TPS saw immediate success across its schools.  Below are just some of the situations in which TIPS was utilized.

Intervene/Prevent – Prevent the Escalation of Bullying – A parent used the TIPS reporting system to report incidents of physical bullying towards her daughter and several of her peers. The “bully” was so effective that the student was terrified at the sight of her in the hallway. Once the parent completed the online report, elementary school administration were able to quickly intervene and prevent further bullying. This also gave the administrators an opportunity to provided school-wide awareness & education regarding bullying.

Intervene/Prevent the Escalation of Cyber Bullying – A female student completed a TIPS report online, with assistance from her school counselor.  Incident initially began as “cyber-teasing” on Facebook from another female peer at same school, teasing victim about a recent breakup with a male peer at same school. Administrators were able to meet with victim & parent, provided information and counsel regarding safe use of social media sites online. This also provided the middle school administration with an opportunity to raise student awareness of the negative effects of cyberbullying among students.

Intervene/Prevent – Prevent Self Harm – A high school teacher completed a TIPS report online, stating she was very concerned about the behavior of one of her English students. This female student had recently informed the teacher that she was thinking suicidal thoughts and was uncomfortable going to her next hour due to some of the students in the class. The HS Social Worker was notified, coordinated mental health services for student and family and provided a free assessment, which resulted in successful intervention and prevention of suicide.

Now well into the 2nd year of TIPS, Tulsa continues to receive feedback from students and parents and work with their school principals and counselors to immediately address concerns and prevent incidents from escalating into tragedies.

In the fall of 2012, Oklahoma City Public Schools launched the TIPS platform and their 587-STOP reporting hotline (also provided by Awareity).  Initially designed to gather anonymous reports from students and parents regarding bullying and student safety concerns, Safe Schools Coordinator, Tracy Alvarez, immediately saw the value in TIPS and expanded the use of the program to document and track truancy cases, as well as bus and transportation issues.  Now, if a bus driver or monitor sees concerning behavior on the way to or from school, they can immediately report concerns to the district’s transportation director, as well as the school’s principal for investigation. School administrators can quickly address concerns and also utilize ongoing reports to determine if particular bus routes or areas within schools need more supervision.

Many schools fear implementing an anonymous reporting capability within their schools will overwhelm staff with false or misleading reports.  After speaking with Tulsa and OKCPS, it is clear that students are not interested in falsely getting their peers in trouble.  In fact, victims and bystanders just want bullying and harassment to stop and are overwhelmingly supporting the new system.  The schools have also been able to delegate incident types and locations for reports so each individual school within a district is responsible for handling the reports concerning their students.  TIPS is actually saving valuable time and resources by eliminating paper-based student files, spreadsheets on behaviors and weekly meetings to discuss at-risk students.

By empowering your students, staff, faculty, parents and community members to be responsible for their own safety and the safety of others within your school districts, schools can continue to improve student safety ongoing.  Is your school taking control of your learning environment?

No Comments   

What Makes a Good Risk Manager?

Posted In Risk Management on August 17th, 2012


What makes a good risk manager? This was a discussion I participated in recently and most of the responses suggested a good risk manager had to have knowledge and ability – and needed to know who, how, why, when, where, how often, etc.

I agree a good risk manager should have each of the things mentioned above, however these are only part of what makes a good risk manager.

So I asked the following questions…What makes a good surgeon? A good race car driver? A good golfer?

They all need knowledge and ability and they need to know who, how, why, when, where, how often, etc. But real-world results and lessons learned clearly reveal these are only part of what makes a good surgeon, a good race car driver and a good golfer. Results and lessons learned clearly reveal each will only succeed if they have the “right tools”.

A good risk manager needs the “right tools” to ensure all appropriate people have access to the knowledge they need (the “right information”) and the “right tools” to measure awareness and accountability at the individual level…because remember if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it and we are talking about risk management. A good risk manager also needs to equip other people with the “right tools” to perform risk assessments (especially anonymous assessments and surveys). People clearly need the “right tools” to report red flags, threats, concerning behaviors, etc. And good risk managers need the “right tools” to get the “right information” (organization specific training, policies, roles, incident reports, risk assessments, documentation, etc.) to the “right people” so they can “do the right things”.

All you have to do is stop and take a good look at the headlines and you will see story after story where an organization failed to prevent a preventable tragedy/incident because they did not have the “right tools” to get the “right information” (which exists in nearly every incident) to the “right people” in the “right place” at the “right time” with the “right documentation” so people could have “done the right things”.

Risk managers face a global and organizational Gapidemic – meaning organizations have too many gaps in risk management and prevention – and a good risk manager is one that realizes they need the “right tools” to equip them to eliminate dangerous and costly gaps so they can prevent preventable incidents, expensive consequences, embarrassing headlines, big fines, damaging lawsuits and horrible tragedies.

And one more piece of valuable wisdom comes from Albert Einstein:

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.

I believe most people want to do something and want to “do the right things”, but good risk managers will have to equip themselves and others with the “right tools” or their organization and their people will continue to be in reaction mode rather than proactively preventing preventable incidents and tragedies.


No Comments   

Lessons Learned from Bullying of Bus Monitor

Posted In Risk Management, School Safety on June 24th, 2012


Did you see the video of the 68 year-old Bus Monitor getting bullied and abused by students?

This incident has received attention from across the nation with support pouring in for the bus monitor. But, perhaps what is more important is the lessons we learn from this incident to help prevent future situations from escalating.

Do School Administrators have any clue as to what is happening to Bus Monitors and Bus Drivers on their buses?

How many other Bus Monitors and Bus Drivers is this happening to? Why are Bus Monitors and Bus Drivers not properly trained with the right information on how to respond if students are abusing or bullying them? Do the Bus Monitors understand their roles and responsibilities for responding to the bullying or harassment of other students? Do the Bus Monitors provide a leadership role in the safety of the students on the bus?

Did you see the Bus Driver’s lack of awareness and lack of accountability in the BULLY movie? One of the students featured in the movie was tortured and bullied daily on the bus and due to a lack of awareness and reporting, school administrators and parents were clueless about the situation.

This video, the BULLY movie and too many other incidents clearly reveal the disconnects and gaps that exist between School Administrators and what is happening on buses, in locker rooms, in hallways, at sporting events, online and numerous other locations where bullying and abuse is taking place.

Did you see the passion from caring individuals once a student uploaded the video for others to see? I believe most people want to do the right things, but it is the responsibility of School Administrators to equip their Students, Bus Monitors, Bus Drivers, Teachers, Staff, Counselors, Parents and other community members with the right tools to get the right information to the right people in the right places at the right time with the right documentation so people can do the right things….right now!

I can’t imagine any School Administrators would want to see their name and their school in the headlines around the world for an incident like this.

If you want to see how early adopter schools have taken the lead in utilizing innovative tools that empower students and all personnel at the school to take proactive actions, I hope you will have your School Administrators contact me at info @ as soon as possible.

Early adopter schools are empowering their students, personnel, parents and others with the ability to report incidents (anonymously or non-anonymously) and using innovative tools ensure the incident report (and videos, screenshots, etc.) gets to the right people immediately so they can investigate, intervene and prevent incidents like these before they lead to a tragedy or go viral on the Internet and lead to lots of expensive costs (legal, reputation, media, parent outrage, stress, investigations, fines, etc.) that could have been prevented.

No Comments   

Prevention and the Tip of the Iceberg

Posted In Risk Management on May 10th, 2012
Tags: , , , ,


Everyone has seen a picture of an iceberg showing only the tip of the iceberg actually visible above water and the majority underwater.                          iceberg

Prevention is sort of like an iceberg because the majority of actions that must be taken with regard to preventing incidents are not visible to most people. For example, if you work at a financial organization and you are striving to prevent fraud and the expensive consequences of fraud, or if you work for an educational institution and you are striving to prevent bullying and the expensive consequences of bullying, the biggest risks, consequences and costs are not always visible at first, but they cannot be ignored either.

Lessons learned show us if you focus only on the tip of the iceberg you are making a big mistake because you are missing the most dangerous risks and challenges that could cause the most embarrassing and most expensive costs to your organization or your educational institution.

Lessons learned also show us knee-jerk reacts to the tip of the iceberg can lead to BIG failures (Titanic, RSA, Virginia Tech, Penn State, Suicides, Lawsuits, etc.).  And we also know knee-jerk reactions seldom turn out to be the best overall or long-term solution and hardly ever address the core of more serious risks and threats.

To give you an example, immediately after the Virginia Tech tragedy, a massive number of organizational leaders reacted to the tragic situation by rushing out to purchase mass notification systems.  Mass notification systems might be helpful for “reacting” once you have rammed into the “iceberg” (tragedy, incident, lawsuit, etc.), but lessons learned clearly reveal most tragedies and incidents were preventable.  To prevent, organizations need the right tools to get the right information to the right people in the right places at the right time so appropriate individuals could have done the right things so no mass notification was necessary.

Recent knee-jerk reactions include those related to mounting fraud in the financial sector, escalating bullying (and other alarming student safety trends) in the educational sector, as well as many other dangerous trends affecting several other sectors around the world.

In the financial sector, financial leaders are purchasing one-size-fits-all solutions that will hopefully notify them once their customer’s money has been fraudulently stolen.  In the education sector, school leaders are purchasing one-size-fits-all incident reporting solutions and hoping students, teachers, staff and parents will use them.  However, it is important to note that one-size-fits-all solutions like these offer little to no tools for preventing these incidents and preventing the escalating and expensive consequences related to fraud,  bullying and many other alarming risks and trends.

When it comes to fraud and bullying and many other risks, remember there are numerous risks, threats, challenges and consequences that may not be visible, so make sure you have the right tools to obtain the right information so you and others in your organization can do the right things to prevent the preventable.

No Comments   

Lessons Learned – Doing the Right Thing

Posted In Risk Management on May 8th, 2012


“Talking” about Doing the Right Thing is not the same as “Doing” the Right Thing.

Lots of news stories, government folks, celebrities and experts talk about doing the right thing.  Lots of “talk” appears on websites and in blogs, books, programs and laws.  But “Doing the Right Thing” requires taking action and more specifically taking proactive prevention-focused actions.

Facts and lessons learned clearly show us that most incidents, tragedies, suicides and headlines were preventable.  So why are people not taking proactive and preventative actions and not doing the right things?

I had an idea for this blog a couple weeks ago and then I heard this scripture reading and I knew the blog was right on target and releasing the blog was the right thing to do. The scripture reading included the following:

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?  Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

Facts and lessons learned also show us words (laws, policies, procedures, checklists, general training, etc.) and speeches are not preventing preventable incidents from occurring.  Facts and lessons learned also reveal there are huge gaps with youth and with adults – awareness gaps, accountability gaps and tools gaps.  Based on these facts and lessons learned, it is crystal clear organizations and educational institutions must take immediate actions to empower youth and adults with situational awareness, with accountability and with the right tools to “Do the Right Things”.

If you would like to see a demonstration a “Prevention Platform” that schools, colleges, government and financial institutions are using, take action and visit


No Comments   

Failure to Prevent Costs University Millions

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


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.


No Comments   

5th Anniversary of Virginia Tech: Cost of Reaction vs. Prevention Is Not Even Close

Posted In Campus Safety, Education, Emergency Management, Incident Reporting, Risk Management, School Safety on April 16th, 2012
Tags: , , , , , ,


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.

No Comments   

Teachable Moments, Bullying Laws and Escalating Liabilities – Part 2

Posted In Incident Reporting, Risk Management, School Safety on February 17th, 2012
Tags: , , , , , , ,


If you missed part one of this blog, please click here for teachable moments and bullying laws…

Now that you have reviewed Part 1, my other concern with this story involves communities and their taxpayers.  Is the complaint by school administrators and this vote by the Council on Local Mandates putting communities and taxpayers in a more vulnerable situation with even more liabilities and costs?

Do these school administrators know what happens when a school does not take appropriate actions by equipping everyone to report incidents, investigating all reports, intervening, preventing a hostile environment and documenting their actions?  Are the Council on Local Mandates and the school administrators for the school districts in Bergen County aware of multiple OCR Dear Colleague Letters that were sent to all schools?

All school administrators could benefit from takking a few minutes to review an Executive Briefing on the Federal Investigation of a school district in California that did not follow OCR Dear Colleague Letter mandates, click here to request your copy.

I also wonder if these school administrators realize that a New Jersey school district within the same Bergen County (Emerson Board of Education) recently paid $130,000 in a settlement of a lawsuit because the school failed to take appropriate actions to intervene and prevent bullying targeted at a student?  The NJ Attorney General said this about the school:

“There is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion that these incidents of bullying were either ignored or improperly handled by Respondent.”

And I wonder if NJ school administrators are aware there are two more similar lawsuits pending against New Jersey school districts in which students claimed administrators ignored their reports of bullying?

As I mentioned in Part 1, I am passionate about student safety and because of my passion I bring attention to these stories to help school administrators take actions before it’s too late for even one at-risk student.  I like sharing successes from other school leaders who are reforming status quo, reducing costs and improving student safety and I was honored to receive the Risk Innovator Award for Education from Risk & Insurance Magazine and the Responsibility Leader Award too.

Give me a call at 402.730.0090 as I am confident we can help you too!

No Comments   

Teachable Moments and Anti-Bullying Laws – Part One

Posted In Incident Reporting, Risk Management, School Safety on February 12th, 2012
Tags: , , , , , , , ,


A recent news story involving the NJ Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, the Council on Local Mandates and a school district in Warren County in New Jersey caught my attention.  After reviewing related articles, are New Jersey school administrators missing out on a significant teachable opportunity?

The Council on Local Mandates voted 7-2 that the New Jersey state law regarding anti-bullying must be amended because it includes an unfunded mandate for local school districts.  Is this really the message school administrators want to send to their students about doing the right thing?  Are these school leaders saying student safety and anti-bullying issues are not going to be addressed unless they get more funding?

The school district said that it would cost them $6,000 to train educators – with more costs in the future.  Apparently the administration of this school district would be using status quo training approaches, because $6,000 is very expensive.  Status quo mass training approaches are clearly not helping school administrators prevent bullying, as alarming incidents continue to mount around the globe.

In another related article, school administrators said the law is creating more paperwork, investigations and meetings.

The NJ Anti-Bullying law does not create more paperwork, more investigations or more meetings…the status quo approaches do.  The NJ law provides school leaders with guidance and a blueprint they can use to prevent bullying and related consequences more effectively.

Unfortunately, these NJ school administrators missed a great opportunity to use the new anti-bullying law to create teachable moment in innovation and entrepreneurship.  For example, wouldn’t it make more sense for school administrators to gather ideas for reforming expensive, status quo, labor-intensive, paper-based and ineffective 20th century approaches?  Or school administrators could have explored success stories from innovative school leaders that could help reduce costs and equip their school to prevent bullying?

I have always been very passionate about student safety, and without a “funded mandate” we began studying failures and lessons learned, and then began developing tools to eliminate those gaps and disconnects that were showing up in schools over and over and over.   I am proud to say we are helping schools save lives, save money, save time, save reputations and save resources and we did it without a “funded mandate”.

We also compiled the results of our research so we can share our findings with school administrators that do not have the time and resources to do their own research. If you would to review one of our executive briefings from our research, click here.

No Comments   

Lessons Learned from Joe Paterno and Penn State

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


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.

No Comments   

<< Newer Posts
Older Posts >>

rss  facebook  twitter  linked in