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.

Learning Lessons from School Safety Litigation

A few years back I wrote about viewing school safety through the lens of litigation. Between conference keynotes and working with school districts I am still buried up to my neck in case files for civil actions against school and public safety officials. I am always busy with expert witness work and school safety litigation is time consuming, but some cases have more complexity than others. This month’s collection of binders contains a series of complicated situations which demand close attention and painstaking examination.

While I decline the vast majority of cases I am contacted about, I do find that working some cases serves as a valuable learning experience. School safety incidents usually look quite different when you review 5 to 10 binders of documents along with security camera footage, audio from 911 calls and other evidence in contrast to viewing a 90 second blip on the news.

Though this month marks my 35th year in the field of campus safety, I must say that I still learn something new each year. I learn from respected colleagues, from reading books and articles, conducting school security assessments, and in general we learn a great deal from our clients. However, some of the most invaluable lessons I have learned have come from my work in school safety litigation. Spending 40, 50, 60 or more hours reviewing a case file and preparing a report that is more thoroughly cited page per page than the average master’s thesis is always challenging and informative.

Carefully reviewing depositions, policies, manuals, training program power points, legal documents, camera footage, and other forms of evidence affords quite a different view than most other forms of work that I do. These experiences shape the way I view documentation, verbiage in policies, procedures, training programs and virtually every aspect of school safety. When I deliver a conference presentation, conduct assessments, or prepare written reports for clients, I am constantly considering how the words, concepts and actions of my audience and clients would be perceived in the event of safety-related litigation.

Whether the case involves an active shooter incident, the rape of a student in their school, molestation of young children by school employees, death from sudden cardiac arrest or the death of a child crushed by a falling object in a classroom, each case offers valuable lessons on how the chances that serious injuries and deaths can be averted with effective safety practices.

This perspective also drives a more important thought process. If the strategies, documentation and training processes are well-designed from a liability reduction standpoint, they are usually also more reliable in preventing and preparing for school crisis events. While not always the case, most of the cases I work involve a tragic ending. Using what I lean as each tragedy is dissected page by page and frame by frame, does create the silver linings in such dark clouds. While no school safety measures are foolproof, there are many opportunities and possibilities to prevent tragic events in schools. Application of the lessons to be learned from each tragedy can help to prevent many more devastating school crisis events so that we can avoid school safety litigation altogether.

school safety litigation case files

This is the initial case file for a single-victim case resulting in school safety litigation.

Navigate Prepared School Safety Seminars a Success

Navigate Prepare School Safety Seminar

We have had a busy couple of weeks presenting four high-impact scenario-based school safety seminars sponsored by Navigate Prepared. Last week, we presented at two seminars in Cincinnati and Chicago followed by seminars in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The seminars consisted of a dynamic three – hour interactive session using more than thirty audio and video school crisis scenarios. After a lunch provided by Navigate Prepared, each group was split into two groups with one group participating in a walk-through of the facility to discuss ways to enhance safety, security, school climate and emergency preparedness while the second group participated in an interactive discussion and demonstration of the Navigate Prepared system. After one hour, the two groups switched places and the process repeated. We had excellent feedback on this approach at a Navigate Prepared event in Ohio last year and the feedback was very positive for all four of this year’s seminars.

More Seminars to Come

We had excellent participation from school, law enforcement and fire service personnel with an impressive number of school superintendents making time to attend the events. I had the opportunity to see participants from previous projects and to make new acquaintances. I also had the opportunity to spend a good bit of time visiting with Navigate Prepared personnel riding with them between events. Due to the positive feedback, Navigate Prepared is planning a series of similar seminars for the fall and I am looking forward to these events.

Navigate Prepared School Crisis Scenarios

As we appreciate the opportunity to spread our messages of school safety to so many people through these seminars, the Safe Havens International team is scripting, recording and editing a dozen new school audio crisis scenarios for use by Navigate Prepared and their clients as a free value-added service. These should be finished in the next week or so and we are excited to see Navigate Prepared make them available to school and public safety officials. In 35 years working in the field, I have never seen a tool that is more effective in helping school officials train, practice and evaluate their plans, procedures and technology solutions as the scenarios we have been developing over the past decade.

I feel honored to be able to work with the Navigate Prepared team and the many impressive people I had the opportunity to meet in this four-city tour. I am looking forward to the next multi-state tour in the fall.

To stay informed about audio scenarios and upcoming fall Safety Summit locations visit: http://www.navigateprepared.com/safety-summits/

Free School Safety Conference Series, Presented by Navigate-Prepared

Great opportunity to attend a free school safety conference

Today I am honored to be able to keynote a free school safety conference being presented by NaviGate Prepared in Cincinnati, Ohio. What’s really exciting is that this is the first in a series of free school safety conferences in three states over the next two weeks.  I have had the privilege of presenting for them before and we are currently planning additional conferences for New York and Pennsylvania in September.  For each free school safety conference, I will present for three hours in the morning followed by interactive school safety building tours with participants. This is a great chance to learn hands-on with me and see a school through my perspective.

While we do not provide product endorsements or sell advertising space, we do appreciate NaviGate Prepared for their commitment to safer schools. This conference series is a great example, with a full day of solid content and concepts – not filler designed to focus on a particular product.

For more information on these events, please visit: http://www.navigateprepared.com/home-featured/school-safety-michael-dorn/

 

Free School Safety Conference information from the NaviGate Prepared website:

School safety is the focus as we team up with Michael Dorn, executive director, Safe Havens International to bring day-long Safety Summit Workshops to the following locations:

  • Princeton City Schools – Viking Village Auditorium, Cincinnati, OH – March 21 – Register here
  • Grayslake Community School District 127 – High School Auditorium, Grayslake, IL – March 22 – Register here
  • Allegheny Intermediate Unit 3 – Auditorium, Homestead, PA – March 27 – Register here
  • Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 – Auditorium, Easton, PA – March 28 – Register here

The Safety Summits are free to registered guests, including district administrators, building administrators, and first responders.

During the workshops, Michael will share actionable insights guests can implement immediately. Guests will participate in a relevant series of exercises and discover how tools like NaviGate Prepared can support school safety goals. The agenda includes a school safety audit where Michael will identify safety gaps, effective solutions and best practices throughout the building.

NaviGate Prepared is sponsoring the Safety Summit Workshops to give administrators and first responders access to critical safety information. According to Thom Jones, general manager, NaviGate Prepared, “I love seeing how audiences react during Michael’s presentations. He is a tremendously dynamic speaker. The depth of his knowledge and experience is unparalleled.” Jones states, “I am thrilled we are able to bring this level of school safety knowledge to so many administrators and first responders.”

“We are honored to be hosting the Safety Summit Workshop at Grayslake Central High School,” says Catherine Finger, Ed.D, superintendent, Grayslake Community High School District 127. She adds, “School safety is always a top priority for us so we appreciate this opportunity to learn new ways to mitigate risks, prepare our staff and students to respond appropriately in an emergency and implement proven safety methods throughout our buildings. We look forward to many Illinois school districts taking advantage of this important event and appreciate the generosity of NaviGate Prepared sponsoring this workshop and for bringing renowned safety expert, Michael Dorn.”