About Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.

School Safety Litigation and Camera Signage

Poor choice of wording on signage relating to school security can pose problems during school safety litigation. Though many vendors provide schools with signage like that depicted, care should be taken not to use signage that implies that video cameras are being monitored.

Poor choice of wording on signage relating to school security can pose problems during school safety litigation. Though many vendors provide schools with signage like that depicted, care should be taken not to use signage that implies that video cameras are being monitored.

Security Camera Signage Can Cause Complications in School Safety Litigation

We commonly find signage that can create challenges during litigation while we are conducting school security assessments. One of the most common examples involves security camera signage. We suggest that school officials avoid posting signage that could imply that school security cameras are being monitored, especially when full-time personnel are not assigned to these duties. Attorneys have sometimes successfully argued that this type of language has created a false promise of security during litigation for security incidents.

Balance the School Security Benefits with the Potential Risk Exposure

While I understand the desire to deter misconduct, the legal implications should be considered when posting signage relating to school security cameras. This is not a bad idea even when school security cameras are typically monitored by security personnel as gaps in coverage can still occur. We have also seen instances where budget cuts result in loss of security positions and school officials have forgotten to remove the camera signage which has now become inaccurate.

While signage informing the public that cameras are in use can be beneficial, carefully consider the wording to reduce the chances that your own language will be used against you in a court of law.

Protecting Windows can Protect Your School

While fear of active shooter events can cause school officials to consider reducing the use of glass, in building design, this approach can actually increase the risk of violence. Proper utilization of natural surveillance as seen in this building design, can help occupants prevent crime and spot an aggressor in time to implement protective actions. Note how this design allows occupants to see between vehicles in the front parking lot

While fear of active shooter events can cause school officials to consider reducing the use of glass, in building design, this approach can actually increase the risk of violence. Proper utilization of natural surveillance as seen in this building design, can help occupants prevent crime and spot an aggressor in time to implement protective actions. Note how this design allows occupants to see between vehicles in the front parking lot.

Experts on Glass Protection

I had an unexpected opportunity to present at an interesting conference in St. Petersburg, Florida this summer. I had an opening in my schedule and I am very glad that I had the opportunity to present there. Hosted by Madico Safety and Security Window Films, the event drew invitation only participants from across the United States, Malaysia, Ecuador, China, Korea, Africa, Mexico, and Barbados. The highly technical training program was focused on advanced level considerations for the proper selection, use of and installation of protective options for a wide array of types of windows. Madico invited me to hear a top expert on blast protection on the day prior to my presentation. As I expected, I found that session and several by other subject matter experts to be very interesting, informative and highly technical. I quickly realized that the participants as well as the presenters were very experienced and knowledgeable in their fields.

Why Windows Make Schools Safer

While the various presenters provided very detailed information on the advantages and limitations of various approaches to protecting building occupants from gunfire, explosions and forced entry, my contribution was quite different. I opted to focus on making sure the participants of the event understood the tremendous protective benefits of windows in school classrooms, offices and other areas.   While there are many myths about the frequency of attackers breaking or shooting through glass windows during attacks in U.S. K12 schools, the reality is that these types of attacks have thus far been extremely rare in America. While it can be very important to properly protect windows in specific situations, it is just as important to have windows in specific places to help reduce risks associated with crime, violence and accidents.  For example, while active shooter deaths represent about 8% of school homicides in U.S. K12 schools from 1998 to 2013, CDC data shows that 45% of school homicide victims are killed in situations involving interpersonal disputes such as fights. As student supervision is one of the most effective methods to reduce fights in K12 schools, good natural surveillance is extremely beneficial in schools. The use of thoughtfully placed windows is important to good natural surveillance.

The need for protection of glass in key areas

While our analysts do not typically suggest ballistic and blast protection as a stock strategy for all school windows, we often suggest our clients carefully consider security protection for key glass windows, and at times, consideration of ballistic protection and in some specific situations, blast protection. In many instances, we would prefer properly protected windows be used to provide good natural surveillance over the elimination of windows out of fear of an active shooter. Windows can help prevent many types of violence while also helping increase natural light, improve school climate, and avoid the institutional look that can increase crime and the fear of crime on campus. Protective options can often be used for windows that can allow staff to observe key areas such as hallways, atriums, weight rooms. and pool areas.

Balance the fear of active shooters

A good school safety approach balances the risks of rare and catastrophic events with those that claim the majority of lives on K12 campuses. Reducing the gang activity and interpersonal conflict that are responsible for more than 70% of all U.S. school homicides is very important. Protecting windows from various types of hazards can be complex and expensive. School officials should take care to draw on the expertize of manufacturers and vendors who have a high degree of competency in this area. It was truly a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet and interact with so many experts on protecting glass in settings across the globe.

Campus Concealed Carry Laws and Colleges

Campus Concealed Carry & Safe Schools

Several states recently passed legislation related to campus concealed carry. In one form or another, these laws allow students and campus employees with a concealed firearm permit to carry a gun on campus. These laws caused considerable concern among some. There are questions about good Samaritan laws and how those would apply. There are dire predictions about tragic events that would occur, and equally dire predictions about what would happen if we not allow concealed carry on campuses. Quite simply, the predicted chaos and carnage has not occurred.

I generally take a middle-of-the-road stance on this highly emotional topic for some very pragmatic reasons. On one hand, there have been several campus shootings that have been stopped by citizens with guns: a high school dance shooting in Edenborough, Pennsylvania, a potential shooting at a university sorority dance Macon, Georgia, and the high school shooting in Pearl, Mississippi, to name a few. At the same time, I am not convinced that campus concealed carry would impact the overall numbers of shootings and victims that take place each year in educational facilities.

A Shift in Public Thinking on Campus Concealed Carry

The pressure to allow concealed carry will increase significantly if we continue to see mass casualty attacks with firearms and edged weapons by terrorists. This will be even more true if there are any more attacks on K12 and higher education targets. Educators in other countries like Israel, Thailand and Kenya are allowed to carry firearms as a response to school terrorism. We may see this evolve into a bigger discussion in the United States as well.

Focusing on active shooter incidents can leave us unprepared for everyday events, particularly when it comes to campus concealed carry as a preparedness tactic.

Focusing on active shooter incidents can leave us unprepared for everyday events, particularly when it comes to campus concealed carry as a preparedness tactic.

My primary concern a bit different than those often highlighted in media stories. I am concerned about the focus on extremely rare events like active shooter and active killer incidents. These types of risks are easy to focus on because they are so tragic when they do occur. I worry that people who carry a gun will train with a focus on neutralizing an active shooter. Their mental space is thus focused on an event that is statistically unlikely.

The More Likely Scenario

In reality, school staff will probably face a split-second use of force decision for a more mundane event. An intoxicated person waving a knife or an act of interpersonal violence will happen much more frequently. In schools, an active shooter situation is statistically less likely than many other situations that might prompt a use of force. Anyone who carries a gun for self-defense should be fully prepared to make the decision to take a human life – and not just in extreme situations.

Additional information on Campus Concealed Carry: