I had an unpleasant experience a while back. Safe Havens was selected to conduct a school security assessment for a large urban school district through a competitive bid process. As we conducted the assessment, we found repeated indications that building administrators were being pressured not to report some types of criminal incidents. When the preliminary report of findings was provided to the district, the superintendent expressed distress that this was included in the report. He tried to pressure us to modify the verbal report to the board so it would not reflect badly on his administration. While we provide a draft report so the client can give us feedback to help make sure our reports are accurate and understandable, we make it clear to our clients up front that our reports will have to accurately reflect what we find and we will not deviate from the truth.
In this case, the superintendent made it clear to me that he was not happy that the report did not reflect well on him in this regard and that he was paying us for the work. As we have had to do in the past, we stood on our principles and refused to modify this finding. Later, the school district bought out the superintendent’s contract and began conducting an intensive audit of the district. The report was recently released and the report has been forwarded to prosecutors who are reviewing the case for possible criminal prosecution. The audit found that the superintendent had tried to apply intensive pressure to a number of his employees in a similar manner to what we experienced.
We have worked with many school districts and non-public schools, and have only experienced this type of intensive pressure to change our findings on a couple of occasions. In a previous instance, we were directly told by a client that we would lose an upcoming $500,000 contract if we did not delete one of our findings. We refused to change the finding and have no regrets. Like police officers, educators, and other professionals who are tasked with protecting students and school staff, integrity is important. Our integrity is one reason Safe Havens conducts more school security assessment than any organization in the field. Skill absent credibility has limited value. Reading about this investigation reminded me of why it is so important for school safety professionals of all types to stand firm when they are pressured to participate in a cover up or other unethical endeavor.