When is it O.K. to Have Sex in K12 Schools?

This unlocked boiler room is the type of location where students sometimes engage in sexual activities.  Space management is an important concept for school officials to use to prevent both consensual sexual encounters and sexual assaults.

This unlocked boiler room is the type of location where students sometimes engage in sexual activities. Space management is an important concept for school officials to use to prevent both consensual sexual encounters and sexual assaults.

Sex in K12 Schools

Kevin Wren is a school safety professional in South Carolina who has attended several of my presentations. He recently sent me a link to a news story involving two New York City school teachers who were allegedly caught having sex in a classroom. Both teachers have been reinstated and will continue to teach in the same school because no students were present in the classroom when the alleged incident took place.

Kevin recalled me asking audiences the important rhetorical question “when is it acceptable for people to have sex in K12 schools?”   This case is an excellent example of why I sometimes have this discussion with audiences when I keynote conferences.

Of Course not!

Obviously the correct answer is that it is never acceptable for people to engage in sex in K12 schools. My follow up question to the audience is “but do people have sex in K12 schools?”. The answer to that question is that this occurs far more often than the average person realizes. Whether the sexual acts involve a sexual assault or molestation, consensual acts between students, consensual acts between a student and an employee or as in this recent case, and allegation of consensual sex between adults, sex on K12 campuses are a serious problem.

A Significant and Recurring Problem in Schools

Over the years, there have been too many examples of these types of problems to count. I am currently working as an expert witness on two such cases and have just been asked to review a third case involving an allegation of this type for a law firm that is attempting to determine if they should litigate school officials or not. I have seen many troubling cases of this type covered in the national news including one incident where someone videotaped a school principal having sex with a teacher, posted it on the web and sent it to school board members. I declined a case where a district was being litigated in federal court which involved seven students having sex with a special needs child for more than one hour. I had been asked to conduct a security assessment for the district in their attempt to address the event. In this particular case, I was approach by both defense and plaintiff’s counsel but I advised them both that I felt there would be a conflict of interest.

Preventing Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct in Schools

This recent school sex scandal demonstrates the need for thoughtfully developed and clearly communicated policies for students and staff that are designed to minimize the opportunities for incidents involving sexual assault and sexual misconduct to occur. The policies can include structured student supervision, requiring employees to keep unattended spaces locked, prohibiting school staff from covering classroom and office windows (with exceptions for emergency situations such as lockdown) and guidance on staff and students being alone in private areas.

While no measures are foolproof, implementing, communicating and enforcing appropriate practices can help to prevent these types of incidents as well as to make it easier to respond to them more effectively should an incident occur.

Free Audio Crisis Scenarios from Safe Havens

This still from the Safe Havens International Safe Topics The First 30 Seconds evaluation and staff development set depicts a woman with a knife in a school's front office.  School crisis scenario testing is one of the most powerful assessment tools for measuring how well prepared school personnel are to make effective and fast life-saving decisions.  Safe Havens has now released five free audio scenarios which can help organizations evaluate and improve emergency preparedness.

This still from the Safe Havens International Safe Topics The First 30 Seconds evaluation and staff development set depicts a woman with a knife in the front office of a school. School crisis scenario testing is one of the most powerful assessment tools for measuring how well prepared school personnel are to make effective and fast life-saving decisions. Safe Havens has now released five free audio scenarios which can help organizations evaluate and improve emergency preparedness.

Safe Havens International began using verbal scenarios in our school security assessment processes many years ago. About 12 years ago, we began creating video crisis scenarios for use in training for clients and for our conference keynote sessions. While trying to help a large urban school district figure out why an experienced administrator failed to take life-saving action which resulted in a student’s death, we found that it was quite revealing to have school administrators respond to our scenario videos in a real-time fashion. During this assessment, I ran scenarios with five very experienced building administrators. When presented with a scenario of an angry parent depicted as threatening front office staff with a large knife, three of the five administrators stated they would ask the woman to come into their office and that they would persuade her to surrender the weapon. None of the five administrators opted to request police assistance or to issue a lockdown for the school. As some of the administrators had armed and sworn police officers assigned to their buildings, this was quite a shock. As this assessment involved a large urban school district with more than 100 schools we were even more surprised.

School Crisis Scenarios Reveal Astounding Gaps

Since that time, our analysts have conducted more than 5,000 one-on-one crisis simulations where representative school employees were asked to respond to a variety of school crisis scenarios in a real-time fashion. Our award winning video team has now produced approximately 100 scripted, audio and video scenarios depicting a wide array of crisis situations. We have developed scoring tools and have embedded the scenarios and the scoring tools into our web-based school security assessment evaluation tool. The results of these simulations have been nothing short of amazing.

School Crisis Scenario Sets

Several years ago, Safe Havens invested more than $250,000 to produce two sets of crisis simulations which are available on our website. One set includes school-based scenarios and the other set is focused on school bus scenarios. These evaluation and staff development sets have been very popular. Last week, our video unit completed five new audio scenarios that have been designed as a free resource. While this resource does not include the companion training videos, video scenarios, scoring tools, and other resources included in the sets in our web store, they are valuable free tools. The scenarios are available as a free MP3 download so they can be played on smart phones, tablets and laptops to initiate drills, conduct limited evaluations and for use in staff development sessions.

Free Audio Crisis Scenarios for any setting

These free crisis scenarios are intentionally recorded to be used in any setting. Developed in cooperation for Campus Safety Magazine as a free resource for attendees at the 2015 Campus Safety Conference in Chicago, they have already generated considerable interest. Be sure to check out these scenarios at: http://safehavensinternational.org/staying-alive/

Protection from Taunting to Terrorism Threats – Pattern Matching

This type of signage failed to deter an attacker who opened fire on U.S. Military personnel in Chattanooga Tennessee today.  While communication of policies and legal requirements can have value, schools should emphasize proven techniques to prevent acts of violence.  Pattern matching and recognition has been helping to avert school shootings and other types of incidents for more than two decades.

This type of signage failed to deter an attacker who opened fire on U.S. Military personnel in Chattanooga Tennessee today. While communication of policies and legal requirements can have value, schools should emphasize proven techniques to prevent acts of violence. Pattern matching and recognition has been helping to avert school shootings and other types of incidents for more than two decades.

Dealing with School Safety Threats

I had the opportunity to keynote the Campus Safety Conference in Chicago earlier this week. When a group of us went to a high-end restraint in the suburbs, I noticed a graphic notifying the public that firearms are not allowed in the restraint. While I know that many businesses post these types of signs to prevent concealed weapons permit holders from carrying guns into their establishments, I have always questioned what they do to enhance safety. Today’s attack on two U.S. military properties in Tennessee highlight the limitations of this type of signage. A similar sign is posted on the glass door of the recruiting station where one of the attacks took place. The sign clearly failed to deter the attacker from firing a number of rounds through the very door the sign was posted on. While signage relating to rules, regulations, and laws can be helpful, we must be realistic on what deterrent value they can provide.

Emphasize Proven Approaches

While we should use an array of prevention strategies, we urge our clients to focus on measures that have been proven to be effective.  One strategy that has been repeatedly proven to be effective in preventing numerous tragedies on school campuses for more than two decades is pattern matching and recognition.   Though this behavioral approach to awareness has been referred to by a number of names, the oldest reference to this strategy I have found thus far is pattern matching and recognition which has been used to save lives since the 1980’s. Apparently originating in an Australian cardiac care unit to help reduce patient mortality by as much as 50%, the concept is now widely utilized in military, law enforcement, emergency medicine, and a number of other high stakes settings.

How Pattern Matching and Recognition Works

Pattern matching and recognition involves people recognizing behaviors that are not typical for the context and the setting. Pattern matching and recognition can help people notice people and situations that pose potential danger ranging from bullying, medical emergencies, and a wide range of acts of violence. Because its use requires that people pay attention to others, pattern matching and recognition can help enhance school climate and connectivity while improving safety, security and emergency preparedness.

Free Video on Pattern Matching and Recognition

Safe Havens International has developed an excellent six-minute video which provides several real-life examples of how pattern matching and recognition has been used in the field. This video features an interview with a former member of the United States Army Delta Force who describes how application of this concept led to the capture of Saddam Hussein.