Banning a My Little Pony Backpack – Are Schools Teaching and Reinforcing Intolerance?

Posted In Education, School Safety on March 20th, 2014
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Earlier this month, an elementary school in Buncombe County, N.C., banned 9-year-old Grayson Bruce from carrying his My Little Pony backpack, saying it triggered bullying.

According to the student’s mother, one of the school counselor’s suggestions was to hide it.

“If you have something like this you’re asking for trouble.”

Think about it…BANNING is actually teaching and reinforcing intolerance, BANNING is not helping youth learn how to be tolerant and inclusive. If a school bans My Little Pony backpacks because it might lead to bullying, what’s next?  Banning students with red hair, banning students who are overweight, banning students in wheel chairs and banning students with learning disabilities?

This school is missing the bigger picture and missing an opportunity to help ALL students learn a valuable life lesson from this situation.

As I think back to my days as a student, I now realize how lucky I was because my parents and a couple of really good teachers I had along the way did not BAN THINGS, they explained why an action or behavior was not a good idea and what the consequences would likely be.  This “student awareness” helped me understand how ALL OF MY decisions had consequences – good and bad consequences.

Schools should be teaching tolerance, not banning items that may cause a distraction, which is a no-win situation for everyone.  Schools should help build a culture of acceptance, build self-confidence and teach youth about how they can respond to potential bullying students and teach youth about the consequences bullying can have on their peers and on their own future.

K-12 schools and Higher Education institutions are in way too many headlines for diversity and intolerance problems.  And Higher Education headlines are revealing what happens when K-12 schools use “banning” approaches rather than “awareness” approaches.  Banning only reinforces intolerance and exclusion; banning does not address the source of intolerance to prevent problems from re-occurring in the future – in Higher Education and in the workplace.

Why do adults prefer banning?  Are adults becoming more disconnected?  Are adults becoming more intolerant?  Are adults giving up and just taking the easy way out with banning?   Are adults setting the right examples for youth?  Are school and college leaders not equipped for the next generation?

Looking at news headlines and tragedies, it is crystal clear every adult and every youth on the planet could benefit from better awareness and a better understanding of “inclusivity, diversity and tolerance”.

Connecting the dots and providing the right awareness at the right time are keys to preventing many problems in our schools, colleges and society today.   If you believe banning My Little Pony backpacks is the best way to prepare students for the real world…it is time for you to get reconnected to the real world and stop contributing to a serious and growing problem.

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Student Safety Survey Reveals What Students Know and School Administrators Don’t

Posted In Education, School Safety, Uncategorized on March 19th, 2014
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Earlier this month, Awareity released our 2013 Student Safety Report – What Students Know and School Administrators Don’t.

To request the full report click here.studentsafetyreport

The findings outlined in the report provide administrators with the validations and evidence they need to justify immediate action.

Just think how much safer every school would be if all students were equipped with the right tools to report incidents and concerning behaviors.

Just think what a difference it would make if School Officials were equipped with the right tools to collect information, connect all the right dots, investigate, perform threat assessments, intervene, monitor, and proactively prevent reports from escalating into more serious incidents or tragedies?

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Are you a Genius or an Intellectual?

Posted In Education, Risk Management on March 10th, 2014


Albert Einstein said:

“Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them.” 


I definitely agree with Albert Einstein on this quote.  When it comes to preventing incidents and tragedies in schools, colleges and organizations of all types, evidence clearly reveals our planet is in need of more geniuses.

Are you ready to be a genius?

Lots of people and experts have opinions on solving problems and let’s be honest…it is fairly easy to look at a problem and make suggestions that people need to do this or that or add more of this or more of that or do it this way or that.

With so many experts, so many books and so many programs on solving workplace violence, targeted shootings, bullying, suicides, cyber harassment, sex abuse, child abuse and numerous other threats, why are so many threats still occurring and even increasing in our schools, colleges and organizations?

We need more geniuses.  We need more proactive prevention.

In a recent meeting, one of our bright young employees made an interesting observation when we were talking about the differences between “reactive response” and “proactive prevention”…she said – “Maybe people do not really understand what preventing involves?”

Perhaps she was right.  Stay tuned for upcoming blogs on proactive prevention and what it involves.  It should be fun and valuable for everyone who wants to be a genius.

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National Youth At-Risk Conference in Savannah

Posted In Education, School Safety, Uncategorized on March 3rd, 2014
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After a very cold and very early start on Sunday morning with a 3 hour delay due to frozen airplane systems and frozen lines (meaning no hot coffee on a very cold plane!), I finally made it to the 25th annual National Youth At-Risk (NYAR) Conference in Savannah, GA.

The NYAR conference started with a very motivating and uplifting keynote from Keith Brown – Mr. I’m Possible.

Mr. Brown reminded everyone that we can make a difference – a huge difference for all youth if we do that little bit extra and if we do not let negativity discourage us from doing the right things.  You really have to hear Mr. Brown speak…his passion is contagious.

The Georgia Southern National Youth At-Risk Center was approved in March 2013 and their focus includes:

Youth-At-Risk signifies the urgency and seriousness of societal “risks” faced by today’s youth and is distinct from “at-risk youth.” The NYAR Conference and new Center focuses on the “risky” conditions that threaten youth’s well-being which inclyouth at riskude a range of factors including poverty, racism, drugs, school violence, gangs, bullying, negative peer pressure, negative school climate, lack of relevant curriculum, passive instructional strategies, disregard for individual learning differences, ineffective discipline systems, low teacher expectations, unqualified teachers, inadequate counseling, teen pregnancy, sexual harassment and dysfunctional home life.

Awareity is proud to be a part of the National Youth At-Risk Conference!  Stay tuned for related news that will be great for schools and at-risk students…

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A Walk in the Shoes of an SRO

Posted In School Safety on February 19th, 2014
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Article originally posted on


What does a School Resource Officer (SRO) do all day? Do they just stand in the hallway at school waiting for violence to occur? Should schools be spending their limited funding on SROs?

These are questions, Safety and Security Coordinator for Bradley County Schools, Scotty Hernandez often receives. And NO, the SROs are not twiddling their thumbs. To the contrary, these officers are heavily involved in student activities, classroom lectures, after school events, discipline and more.

Bradley County is one of the school districts fortunate enough to have an SRO in each of their school buildings. But, it was sometimes challenging to describe to the public how the SROs were being utilized and just how much of a difference they were making in the overall school community.

Bradley County recently turned to Awareity’s TIPS (Threat assessment, Incident management and Prevention Services), a web-based risk and prevention platform. The TIPS platform is successfully being used in multiple school districts across the United States to more effectively identify, prevent, and intervene in threatening behaviors. TIPS provides an easy online solution for all students, parents, faculty, staff and community members to safely (and anonymously or confidentially) report concerning behaviors, suspicious incidents, and general safety/security concerns to the right school staff and SROs.

“TIPS is a tool to be utilized by school administrators and law enforcement to increase awareness of student safety and concerning behaviors within our schools,” said Hernandez. “This tool has the potential to help law enforcement and school personnel to detect, deter, and disrupt unwanted behavior and or criminal activity.”

Incident Reports made through TIPS are reviewed by school administrators at each school and by the SRO. Reports can also be securely and safely shared with SROs at other school locations in the event of bullying between students at different schools, harassment on the bus, students transferring to other schools, etc.

Since TIPS was implemented in August of this year, one of the most valuable uses of TIPS has been by the SROs themselves. SROs have taken advantage of the incident management platform to keep track of over 400 reports, ranging from daily log activities, custody issues, juvenile citations and many other activities relating to Student Safety. Hernandez met with the SROs and said, “Your daily activities should tell a story of how you are an integral part of the school team and a contributor to the learning process. Every day you are helping create and foster a safe and secure working and learning environment”.

Guidance counselors often call upon an SRO to assist in conflict mediation efforts. Parents may seek information from an SRO if they suspect their child is using drugs or alcohol. Many times students just want someone to talk to about problems they are experiencing, and an SRO fills the role of a caring adult in the school building who works to find positive and proactive solutions for young people. In addition SROs work to educate students in crime prevention and personal safety through programs like DARE.

TIPS make it simple to view and track who has done what regarding any particular incident or student. SROs can log their daily activities and share any information they feel is relevant with SROs at other schools in the district. TIPS is saving SROs valuable time in their busy schedules as they can more easily review related incidents involving students and securely access all information in one central location.

An SRO supervisor stated “My SROs love using TIPS as a way to share information across the district. And it’s an easy way for me to print reports for statistics and analytical purposes for my department”.

Funding for TIPS in Bradley County Schools is through a Safe Schools grant

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Hackers Better At Connecting the Dots?

Posted In Information Privacy, Information Security, Risk Management on February 6th, 2014
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In my 30+ years of performing risk, vulnerability and threat assessments, I have always advised my clients to be really careful with whom they hire to for “maintenance and cleaning crews”.  This news about the Target data breach validates my advice.


According to news reports, the hackers that pulled off one of the largest and most expensive data breaches ever, did so by stealing/hacking credentials from Target’s HVAC subcontractor.  Once the hackers had the HVAC subcontractor credentials, they had access to Target’s network and were able to place their sophisticated malware…and you know the rest of the story.


This ‘Connecting the Dots’ wake-up call is for retail, financial, healthcare, government, education and others who work with personal, credit card, medical and financial data.


Is your organization connecting all the right dots? Does your organization have the right tools for all the right departments – Risk, IT, Facilities, Security, Compliance, Privacy, Threat Assessment and others –to connect all the right dots?



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Bullying Teachers

Posted In Uncategorized on December 18th, 2013
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A friend of mine recently shared this link to an anonymous note with me:

I wonder how many other teachers feel like this?


I wonder how many teachers go home at the end of the day drained from dealing with bullying directed at them?


I wonder how many students go home drained at the end of the day drained from dealing with bullying?


In talking to my friends who are teachers, they are getting tired of dealing with bullying related problems in their classroom because it takes time from their teaching and because it has a negative effect on every student’s ability to learn.

I think it is time to start implementing solutions that can solve bullying problems because if the students can a make teacher feel like this, I can’t imagine how kids getting bullied must feel.  Leading schools are taking a proactive stance with more than just talk.

Click here to learn more about how these schools are proactively solving and preventing bullying and related incidents.

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Solving Bullying and Preventing Bullying

Posted In Education, School Safety, Uncategorized on December 9th, 2013
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Bullying has been going on since people set foot on this planet and people have been writing about bullying all the way back to Cain and Abel.  So why does bullying still exist and continue to escalate?

Why has bullying escalated to a level that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] declared bullying a “significant health problem”?

bully cartoon

Bullying exists and bullies exist in nearly every school, nearly every college and nearly every organization.  Evidence is overwhelming and it is time to accept the facts and admit status quo bullying approaches are not working, are not solving and are not preventing bullying.

Why is bullying still in existence and why is bullying still escalating?

Because most anti-bullying and bully prevention programs are not solving bullying problems and not getting to the root of bullying issues at the individual level [aggressor, target, bystander, etc.].  Instead most programs and campaigns [see below] are focused on reactive approaches that do not solve multi-faceted bullying, social and behavior problems:


  • Stop Bullying
  • Stomp Out Bullying
  • Fighting Bullying
  • Kicking Bullying
  • Waging War on Bullying
  • Winning the War on Bullying
  • And numerous others…


If these programs and campaigns were working, how could bullying become a nationwide “significant health problem”?

Shouldn’t we be solving bullying issues and helping children/students learn how to take proactive and proven actions to prevent bullying?  YES! [After all, children are not born bullies, they learn to bully.]

SOLVING any problem [math, psychology, science, athletics, etc.] requires a process. SOLVING a multi-faceted problem like bullying requires a process that involves admitting a problem exists and then identifying incidents, assessing, investigating, intervening, monitoring, connecting the right dots, preventing recurring incidents and documenting to ensure actions and solutions can be utilized and updated on an ongoing basis as bullying, cyber bullying and numerous other incidents arise.

SOLVING a multi-faceted problem like bullying is NOT going to be solved by stopping, stomping, fighting, kicking, waging war, winning the war, etc.

SOLVING the bullying problem and proactively preventing bullying is possible and innovative leaders in schools, colleges and organizations are providing evidence that others can use to follow the leaders.  If you would like to learn how innovative leaders are taking proactive steps to solve multi-faceted problems like bullying and others, click here.

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Liars and Bullies Will Never Achieve Long-term Greatness…

Posted In Uncategorized on November 19th, 2013


Have we reached a tipping point…the point at which a series of incidents becomes significant and obvious enough to cause a larger, more important change?

Is this a national teachable moment…the time at which learning about a particular topic becomes obvious and easiest?

Call it what you want, but obviously now is the time for action to change the future for the better.

So how do you and I change the future for the better?

Lots and lots and lots of people SAY they want to change the future and many more will SAY they are a leader of positive change…however after years of people talking about bullying, hundreds of anti-bullying programs, thousands of bullying summits and conferences it is obvious that just TALKING about change will not actually change the future for the better.

And while researchers and self-proclaimed experts have spent decades researching behavior trends and giving lectures and keynotes, Ben Franklin knew all along that “well done is better than well said”.

And speaking of research, do we really need more research to know that lying and bullying is hurtful, not the right thing to do and will never lead to long-term greatness?  Clearly we don’t need more research, we need action and solutions.

For those who require evidence-based solutions, the evidence is overwhelming as consequences related to lying and bullying mount and evidence links suicides, targeted shooters, violence, depression, despair, financial ruin, fraud, ethics and many other dangerous and tragic consequences to liars and bullies.

The good news is there are evidence-based solutions delivering proven results in schools, colleges and other organizations too.

New born babies are not liars and bullies, so where do youth (and adults) learn to lie and to bully?  Youth and adults learn to lie and bully at home, at school, at work, online and they learn from role models such as top government officials, professional athletes, celebrities, journalists and others.

Unfortunately many parents, school administrators, government officials, professional athletes, celebrities, journalists and others are in denial mode when it comes to accepting accountability for their actions and refuse to assess their own behaviors and their own children’s behaviors.  Most people do not believe they are part of the problem, but have no problem blaming others!

Yet another dangerous disconnect is when people allow their emotions, their political opinions and their peers (in person and on social media) to control their thoughts, actions, emotions, opinions and behaviors.

Adults can change the future.  Youth can change the future too, but they need Adults like you and I to help them and show them how to make the future better.  Youth need role models they can trust and believe in and role models that do the right things because ultimately our youth want to achieve long-term greatness.

Will you continue to enable the liars and the bullies while talking about solutions?

Or are you ready to take action, lead by example, change the future for the better and achieve long-term greatness?

-Rick Shaw

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Why Kids Aren’t Reporting Potential Threats

Posted In Incident Reporting, Risk Management, School Safety on November 15th, 2013
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Last month, A 17-year-old Texas student committed suicide in a high school courtyard.  The student posted two Facebook updates that morning–one saying he was planning on committing suicide, and another with him pointing a gun at his head. In his message, he said, “I don’t know if this is going to affect people or if ya’ll are even going to care but I just want to say I’m taking my life away…”

A quote from another student after the shooting  – “He said he was going through a lot of stuff. He put pictures up before he did it. Nobody believed him until he did it.”

What if just one of the students who saw the posts online or heard the victim talking about suicide earlier had contacted an adult or reported the behaviors to the school?  Would this 17 year old still have a future?

Did you know 80% of school shooters told someone about their plan beforehand? Did you know that 80% of bullying is witnessed? And did you know that 80% of these incidents are NOT reported?   Schools cannot continue to let these alarming trends go unnoticed.  Why aren’t students sharing concerning behaviors and threats with you?

Below are 10 reasons your students may not be sharing this information with you:

1)       Fear of retaliation from peerssad teenager

2)       Embarrassed in front of their peers

3)       Not sure if the threats/concerns need to be reported

4)       Don’t know how or where to report

5)       Don’t trust their reports will be taken seriously; believe nothing will happen  (as a side note, recent school surveys revealed that even when bullying was reported by students, 1/3 of the time, nothing happened – SCHOOLS – THIS IS NOT OKAY!)

6)       Don’t want to be known as a ‘snitch’

7)       Don’t trust administration/adults

8)       Scared they will get in trouble/get mobile devices taken away

9)       Feel it will make the situation worse

10)   Red-tape/institutional barriers


44% of students are aware of a risk to their school!  You can’t prevent what you don’t know about!!


So, what can schools do?

1)       Empower and train bystanders to share all concerns

2)       Make reporting simple, easy and ANONYMOUS

3)       Ensure all Reports are Received Immediately

4)       Ensure the Reports are Going to the RIGHT people

5)       Track and document all reports

6)       Ensure accountability and responsibility for responding to reports

7)       Track all actions taken, intervention steps, etc.

8)       Proactively respond/intervene to ensure situation does not escalate

9)       Set reminders to follow-up/follow-through

10)   Review incidents ongoing


To learn how leading school districts are taking the proactive steps above and ensuring an ongoing culture of safety and prevention, visit

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