School Security Assessment Projects

School Security Assessment Projects Nearing Completion

School security assessment projects have been keeping our analysts incredibly busy for the past two years.   Our dedicated team of 52 analysts managed to help conduct school safety, security, climate, culture and emergency preparedness assessments for more than 1,000 private, charter, faith-based and independent schools and one statewide school security assessment project in only twenty four months. As we wrap up assessment projects for clients as diverse as the Washington D.C. Public School System, Ketchikan, Alaska Public Schools, Richmond, Virginia Public School System, Bend-LaPine, Oregon Public Schools, Leander, Texas Independent School District and a number of the nation’s finest independent schools. Our analysts finally have the opportunity to begin several large projects that had to be placed on the back burner. Though we are finalists for projects involving nearly two hundred schools, the number of requests for school security assessment projects is finally settling down.

During the past two years, the 52 subject matter experts from Safe Havens International have conducted school security assessments for more than 1,000 K12 schools.  During this time, SHI analysts also assisted with a state-wide school security assessment for the Maine Department of Education, published a new book Staying Alive – How to Act Fast and Survive Deadly Encounters, produced more than two dozen new school safety training videos and have helped author a number of web courses including the IS360 Active Shooter course for the 2013 White House School Safety Initiative.

During the past two years, the 52 subject matter experts from Safe Havens International have conducted school security assessments for more than 1,000 K12 schools. During this time, SHI analysts also assisted with a statewide school security assessment for the Maine Department of Education, published a new book Staying Alive – How to Act Fast and Survive Deadly Encounters, produced more than two dozen new school safety training videos, and have helped author a number of web courses including the IS360 Active Shooter course for the 2013 White House School Safety Initiative.

Requests for Other School Safety Services Increasing

We are still continuing to see a steady increase in the number of requests for conference keynotes, other types of consulting projects, training programs and requests relating to expert witness services. Our analysts will soon be able to resume work on a number of school safety training videos and web courses as well as to increase the number of free school safety resources for our website. Thanks to the efforts of Morgan Billinger, we are also finally able to release a monthly newsletter in addition to our periodic release of The Safety Net.

Safe Havens has Grown and Improved

The massive surge in requests for school security assessments forced us to further expand not only the number of analysts, but to develop a highly robust web-based school safety assessment tool. We were blessed to have the generous assistance of Human Technologies in this effort. The assessment tool we developed with their assistance makes it much easier for us to develop and tabulate the data our comprehensive school safety assessment process generates.

I am humbled by the number of requests for services that we have received and indebted to our amazing team of subject matter experts. I am amazed that we have grown into what is now the world’s largest school safety center. The contributions our analysts have made to the field of school safety during the past two years are beyond anything I could have envisioned. I am eager to see the contributions our much expanded school safety team will produce in the next two years.

Possible Gang Involvement in Edged Weapon Attack

Edged Weapon Attack

Griffith Middle School in Los Angeles was the scene of an edged weapon attack on Friday, January 23.  The alleged attacker was 13 years old, while his victim was a 14-year-old student at Garfield High School.  The victim died from his wounds.

The victim had stopped by the middle school to see some friends when the attacker stabbed him with a pair of scissors.  The victim was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The police alleged that the 13-year-old attacker was a gang member.  When he approached the victim, he asked the victim where he was from, which police say is a tactic used by gangs to challenge a suspected rival.

Lessons Learned for Schools

This story has two areas of concern: edged weapons attacks and gang proliferation.

As seen in the story above, an edged weapon attack can involve things other than knives.  School staff need training on weapons screening, which can provide an indication that someone has a weapon on them and improve a staff member’s situational awareness.  The first question people have is, “If they are going to use scissors, how can anyone tell?”

The answer is in the behavior of the individual.  The behavior of a person who is going to attack someone is different than the behavior of a normal person.  Weapons screening training will help a person learn to recognize the signs.

Schools can also help prevent edged weapon attacks by restricting access to edged weapons while in schools.  After thousands of school security audits across the country, analysts frequently find unsecured, accessible edged weapons that students or adults can use in an edged weapon attack.

edged weapon attack

A knife in a school desk drawer that can be used in an edged weapon attack.

The attacker being a possible gang member brings in a whole new level to situational awareness.  Schools should be able to identify those students who are showing that they are affiliated with a gang.  Their manner of dress and appearance can provide clues to gang affiliation, as can specific behaviors.  Staff members should be trained in these indicators.  Numerous websites are devoted to this, although these cannot replace actual training.

An excellent way to start is to reach out to local law enforcement.  They may have people with training and experience.

In no way is this meant as a condemnation of the school for this incident.  The fault lay solely on the alleged attacker.  However, edged weapon attacks can be prevented and it’s up to schools to do what they can to prevent them.

ALICE Training gets Canned

Student throws can of food

Some teachers and even students have been advised by at least one “options based” active shooter training program to keep canned goods to throw at a gunman during an attack. This advice is unsound, untested, dangerous and will likely be extremely difficult to defend in court. The danger that a student or staff member will attack an armed person who is not an active shooter and prompt a shooting or a suicide is very real and has been demonstrated through controlled simulations. There have also been numerous serious injuries to school staff during poorly implemented options based active shooter training sessions. Many school and law enforcement officials utilizing some of these programs are extremely exposed to civil liability.

ALICE Training Canned in Media and Social Media

Advising students and staff to keep canned goods on their desk to throw at a gunman is an inherently dangerous and illogical approach. This outcome is but one troubling symptom of a number of poor quality “options based” active shooter training approaches. After more than $300,000 worth of emergency room medical bills resulting from active shooter training were paid by one insurance carrier in Iowa, the Iowa Department of Homeland Security shut off their agencies’ funding for ALICE training. ALICE is one of a number of programs that teach close quarters combat concepts (CQC) to staff and in some instances to students. Make no mistake about it, no matter what instructors may say, any program that teaches people to physically attack a person with a gun is CQC training regardless of what you call it.

Options Based Active Shooter Training Injuries Verified

According to Jerry Loghry from ERM Insurance, these injuries were sustained during “options based active shooter” training sessions. It is important to note these figures do not count surgeries, physical therapy, disability claims or other follow up costs. Due to the many injuries that are being reported around the country, we anticipate considerable litigation against trainers, schools and law enforcement agencies who have been providing unsafe active shooter training programs. As an experienced school safety expert witness, I feel that many school and law enforcement agencies will experience significant challenges in demonstrating that they have followed appropriate standards of care in many of the current types of training programs. This is due to the way some of these training programs are structured, delivered and because they have been falsely advertised as proven to work.

Misleading Marketing Practices

Further complicating matters from legal and ethical standpoints are the sometimes wildly inaccurate descriptions of these training programs as a “best practice”. Being a new and popular concept is far different from being proven to be effective and accepted as the standard in a particular field. If you investigate definitions for best practice you will see that most definitions describe a best practice as a practice that has consistently shown superior results in contrast to other approaches. To make matters worse, trainees are also often falsely assured that “Good Samaritan” laws will protect them if something goes wrong. An attorney for the Indiana School Boards Association advised us that these laws often only apply to rendering emergency first aid and offer no protection for the use of force in self-defense in many states.

ALICE Training and Canned Goods

Quite a few people asked me what my opinion was about a school principal who sent a letter to parents urging them to have their children bring canned goods to school for self-defense. The letter states that local police suggested this practice and that students should throw canned goods at a gunman should an attack occur. Media reports attribute this advice to ALICE training sessions. If true, this is not the first time instance where schools have been advised to issue canned goods by options based active shooter instructors.

School Safety Expert View

I have now worked in this field for 34 years, have worked eight K12 active shooter events and have worked hundreds of other far more typical school shootings, stabbings and other school crisis events. Unlike most people in the field, I have actually been shot at while on campus and have survived an attack by an armed aggressor using close quarters combat techniques when I was not carrying a gun. In my opinion, telling staff and students to carry cans of canned goods to throw at a gunman is unsound and will clearly increase overall danger for a host of reasons.  There are many other options available to us today and unlike arming teachers and kids with canned goods, they have actually been validated as safe and effective to implement.