EDUCATORS AND ADMINISTRATORS are well versed when it comes to 21st Century Learning platforms, concepts and required skills. Broadly speaking, 21st century skills can be applied in all academic subject areas, and may touch many areas of a student’s life including education, career, and civic environments.
Yet largely absent in this forward thinking paradigm are safety and security. A 21st Century Education can exist only when a school has achieved 21st Century School status, a distinction that has no formal standards or requirements. Recent school and campus shootings have restarted the safe school speak across America’s airways, newspapers and online forums. Commentary has included dated suggestions, opinions and rhetoric. Absent from the conversation however, addressing the root causes and the critical need for established school security standards. School Administrators desperately want and need performance based solutions standards that are based on evidence and best practices. These criteria will enable them to make the best informed decisions.
Applicable to advanced training, emergency planning, safety and security products and technology solutions, all security related components should be required to meet established standards which should include a specific set of selection criteria. When selecting learning curriculum, construction materials and items such as playground equipment, standards are followed. Yet when it comes to life critical security training and solutions, no such standards exist. Some states have required checklists but the manner at which a school suffice this check the box approach is undefined leaving schools minimally or no safer than before. Fire code compliance is the lone exception but some states are entertaining proposed code revisions and exceptions that would allow for the use of aftermarket classroom door hardware currently not able to pass code requirements. This approach to school security and student safety is flawed,
School administrators and organizational leaders can no longer afford not to invest in evidence based advanced safety education training. Training and preparation are the most critical components of a comprehensive safety and security initiative, when all else fails, these are the only things will increase your chances of survival during a crisis incident.
In the absence of federal standards, education officials are left searching for professional guidance that will help them make the best decision for their schools and universities. Ensuring the safety of students, faculty and staff is the most important matter our academic leaders will ever face. These administrators have a moral, ethical and judiciary responsibility to make the best informed decisions when dealing with school security. Yet sadly, improper due diligence and recognition of best solutions have paved the road for inadequate training and underperforming products.
The good news is that schools do have options; bad options should always be avoided. Here are a few points of guidance that will help schools and communities make the right choice when considering enhancing their security initiatives.
Best Practice: Only security industry best practices should ever be considered when establishing policies, procedures, planning and training. This also applies to purchasing of security related products and technologies.
Performance Proven: All products and technologies must be able to perform the task at the level that which they are portrayed to do. An effective security initiative is comprehensive and includes multiple components working in synergy. There is no one single panacea or magic solution that will save lives. Too many “gadgets” have not lived up to expectations, placing our children in further harm’s way.
Code Compliant: All products and technologies must meet all applicable local, state and federal safety and building codes. It is critical that ADA requirements are met to afford special needs individuals and those with disabilities the same level of safety. Attempts to alter codes so that certain products may be accommodated are considered a non-best practice. This has occurred particularly in the classroom door locking category.
Evidence Based: When it comes to advanced training, it is of paramount importance that only evidenced based training curriculum be taught. Nothing less than research based training delivered by credentialed subject matter experts should be permitted in American schools and universities. The innocent lives of our children, our future leaders are too valuable to leave to chance. Too precious to be safeguarded by training that is unsubstantiated, unproven and based on ideas rather than factual research and best practices.
CEU: A continuing education unit is an accredited professional development credential. A professional development program should always have an attached CEU issued via a certified transcript from an independent accredited learning institution. This third party award validates the content and validity of the training curriculum. CEUs are important to the professional development track of educators. Moreover, advanced training programs with an accredited CEU are eligible to receive professional development funding. This is a significant benefit to institutions facing budget restrictions and underfunded security initiatives.
Delivery Model: Videos are valuable learning supplements. However, they have limitations and are the quintessential method for one-way communication. Distance learning programs often are pre-recorded with limited cohort adaptability. Training is most effective when it is interactive, allowing for questions and collaboration. There is no equal to live interactive advanced training. It is important to distinguish between a lecture and live interactive training inclusive of group discussions, group exercises and breakout sessions. This proven instructional methodology has long been used in academia, law enforcement and military training programs. Selecting an advanced training program that involves a blended delivery model with inherent continuing learning is the right choice.
Instructor Credential and Presentation Acumen: Subject knowledge alone does not make one qualified to be a professional instructor nor does superb public speaking skills. There is misnomer that anyone who served in law enforcement or the military is qualified to speak to and conduct advanced safety education training. A professional instructor must hold extensive knowledge and hands experience coupled with exceptional presenter skills. A professional instructor does not lecture but teaches and empowers others with transferrable skills and knowledge.
Liability: When dealing with security partners, only professional organizations holding appropriate commercial credentials, acumen, subject matter expertise and liability insurance should be given consideration. Common sense and judgment tells us that entrusting the safety and wellbeing of children and teachers to an individual without the aforementioned is not a good idea, even if its free. Litigation cases against schools are prevalent and can be extremely
costly. When an administrator does not implement security best practice measures, lives and careers can be lost.
Expecting schools to be safe without incorporating proven strategies is not realistic. School leaders rely on expert advice and solutions as it pertains to their safe school initiatives. Yet sadly, they have been misled and misguided to believe their schools are safe under false pretense and misrepresentation. While some schools have done a good job at improving their safety, the general state of school security remains highly questionable.
Establishing standards will ensure that schools are spending valuable resources in an appropriate manner that will improve safety and security. Unfortunately, the lack of such standards has resulted in a tremendous amount of dollars being squandered on items that add little to nothing when it comes to making schools safer. For too long schools have been given unfunded mandates and have been left to figure out security on their own. Much of their good faith has been abused by individuals and companies who have benefited financially at the expense of the wellbeing of our children and our teachers. Standards would help mitigate predatory selling environment while achieving the primary objective of improving school safety and security. Standards would also prevent bad procurement decisions.
School security should never be treated as a check the box exercise. Our children deserve a focused approach and best effort from those who are entrusted with their safety and wellbeing. Merely checking the box does not prepare schools for violent or unexpected crisis, it does not save lives.