I had a rather unpleasant phone call from a school security consultant last week. As he has done on several occasions in the past, he attacked me and our non-profit center in a rude and rather unprofessional manner. I remained polite and tried to address his concerns but he became even more agitated and then abruptly hung up the phone after accusing me of being a coward after when I refused to agree with his conclusions relating to a particular school security incident. This same consultant was involved with a series of very unethical actions as part of what can only be described as an internet smear campaign a few years back. He apparently lost his school safety position with a public school district over his involvement in the scandal.
While there are many highly qualified school security consultants, the field is by nature largely unregulated. As a result, many different types of people engage in work in the field. School security consultants vary widely in quality, credentials and in some cases, credibility. While I have met many great school security consultants, there are definitely a few consultants who are more focused on money than in making schools safer. One example of this can be seen in how the topic of school security assessments is often approached. While some firms insist that only a school safety consultant can perform a school security assessment, there are a number of government and private sector school security experts who feel that there are instances where school officials and local public safety personnel can and should be trained to conduct their own school security assessments. As few school districts can afford to have an outside firm conduct school security assessments on an annual basis, internalizing this capacity makes sense to many school safety practitioners.
Having conducted school security assessments both as part of a government school safety center and on behalf of the world’s largest non-governmental school safety center, I have many of the same viewpoints on how they should be conducted now as I did when I performed them for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency – Office of the Governor (GEMA). Members of the School Safety Project then and the analysts from Safe Havens International now think of school security assessments as an approach that should be performed on an annual basis rather than as a one-time project.
This is one reason we encourage school districts that are having school security assessments performed by outside vendors to require the vendor to provide training to local public safety officials and schools staff to train them how to conduct their own school security assessments. Safe Havens has now trained more than 2,000 school security consultants, school employees and public safety officials to conduct school security assessments. We have also helped with state-wide school security assessment training programs in five states. While some for profit school security consultants have become vocally upset by this practice, our role as a non-profit center is to make schools safer and this is one way for us to do so. Though we have been criticized and harassed on numerous occasions by several school security consultants, Safe Havens will continue to bid our school security assessment projects at rates far below what for-profit firms charge. Though we have upset some school security consultants by the practice, we will also continue to train local teams in school security assessment processes. To us, school safety is about kids, not revenue generation.