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.

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:

School Security Assessments – Time for an Upgrade?

A New Paradigm in School Safety AssessmentsSafe Havens School Security Assessment

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, leadership teams of both public and non-public K12 schools began requesting school security assessments in record numbers.  In a survey of Maine school superintendents that we conducted approximately 24 months after the shooting, we found that more than 70% of all Maine public school systems had conducted a security assessment since the Sandy Hook attack.  We, like for-profit school security consulting firms we spoke to, received a record number of requests for proposals for school security assessment projects.  Within six weeks of the attack, we were booked nearly solid for the rest of the 2012/2013 school year.  I recall Gerald Summers saying that he felt that we would see this continue for another two years.  I told Gerald that I thought requests would taper off within a few months.  Was I ever wrong.

Requests for School Security Assessments Continue in the 2013/2014 School Year

Proving Gerald correct, the following school year was similar and we added more than 30 analysts to meet the steady and increased demand.   Requests for assessments into the next fall with many clients requesting second assessments because they had not been satisfied with the firms they had selected.  We found this to be particularly common for a number of independent school clients.  In addition, many schools and school districts had to put funds in their annual budgets to cover the costs of school security assessments.  We finally began to note a drop in school security assessments in the 2015/2016 school year.  However, increased terrorist activity has since spurred a lot more interest in school security assessments.

The ISIS Effect

Just as things began to settle down, there has been a series of terrible acts of terrorism and foiled plots in France, Germany, Belgium, the U.K., Africa, the United States, and other countries. These acts have many parents, students and school officials concerned about the potential for school-related terrorism in the United States.  Though K12 school-related terrorist attacks are very rare in contrast to terrorist attacks on other types of targets, they do happen with enough frequency to be a viable concern.  In the past three months, this concern has correlated in a dramatic surge of requests for our services.  From requests to conduct school security assessments and keynote presentations, to a request for a proposal on a book on mass casualty school violence, we have been developing several proposals per week for the past two months.

Saddened that Such High Demand Exists

While we love what we do and are not shy of work; however, we are truly saddened that our services are in such demand.  As it is a good idea to have an external school security assessment periodically, it is time for many K12 schools and districts to have an updated outside evaluation.  Fortunately, a proper school security assessment can identify ways to make schools safer and more effective places of learning in many other ways.  My experience has been that while no measures are foolproof, comprehensive and properly conducted school security assessments can prevent many tragic events.

Insightful Book on Violent Warning Signs

Warning Signs by Brian D. Johnson, PhD and Laurie D. Berdahl, MD

Warning Signs by Brian D. Johnson, PhD and Laurie D. Berdahl, MD

Warning Signs and Destructive Youth Behavior

Earlier this summer, I was asked to review a copy of the book Warning Signs How to Protect Your Kids from Becoming Victims or Perpetrators of Violence and Aggression. Authored by Brian D. Johnson, PhD and Laurie D. Berdahl, MD, the book is geared to parents as well as to those who work with children and youth.  I found the book to be very informative with copious amounts of practical and helpful advice on this timely topic.  In fact, soon after reading the book, I began using data from the book in my keynote presentations.

Helpful Data on School Homicides

One example of information that I found to be helpful is data the authors provide from the Centers for Disease Control.  This data indicates that 45% of homicides on K12 campuses involves interpersonal disputes.  I have long seen a significant correlation between the number of fights in schools and the risk that a shooting or an edged weapons assault will occur.  Steve Satterly’s Relative Risk of Death demonstrates that roughly 8% of all murders committed are committed by active shooters (for more of our research visit our resources page).  The CDC data cited by the authors supports our concern that schools where active shooter efforts dominate the time, effort and funding for safety can be at greater risk for homicide.  With 62 victims murdered on K12 campuses from 1998 to 2013, schools must not forget to also address the risks for the 92% of murders on K12 campuses that were not the result of active shooter events.

Practical Advice for Parents to Recognize Youth Risk Factors

The authors do an excellent job of providing parents with practical advice on recognizing patterns of behavior in children in youth that can indicate higher risk for aggression, victimization and suicide.  They also follow through with realistic action steps that adults can take to reduce the risk of such negative outcomes.  In an age where parents and youth service professionals are deeply concerned about violence by and against school-aged youth, the book provides tangible, helpful and practical action steps that are within the reach of parents and those who serve children and youth.  I highly recommend Warning Signs: How to Protect Your Kids from Becoming Victims or Perpetrators of Violence and Aggression.