School security has been a major topic in Connecticut. Connecticut school officials have been bombarded with marketing materials, calls by sales people and other contacts by people and organizations trying to sell them safety since the tragedy. While this has been occurring in all fifty states, education leaders report and frequently lament intensive activities of this type in Connecticut. During a trip to work with three Connecticut school districts a few weeks ago, several educators and public safety officials expressed anger that a school safety consultant had even rushed to Newtown from another state to do media interviews. While they understand the need for expert commentary, they felt that giving the appearance that he had been summoned to the scene was both misleading and insensitive. There have also been a number of instances of reporters approaching the houses of parents who had lost children with microphones concealed in bouquets of flower to ambush parents with surprise interviews, these types of events have generated considerable stress, pain and sensitivity to what one school official referred to as profiteering. Many people feel they have been victimized all over again. One administrator told me this week that a school employee who lost a loved one in the incident had decided to retire because of the relentless barrage of media interview requests.
School and public safety officials appreciate and understand that the media can and must report the news. They also understand and appreciate that there are people and organizations that can help them make their schools safer. At the same time, many people in the state have expressed that they have grown weary of efforts that they sometimes perceive to be unprofessional, opportunistic and in a few extreme cases, disturbingly predatory. Though we have not made a single unsolicited phone call nor sent any mail to solicit school security work in Connecticut or any other state in the wake of the Sandy Hook incident, our school safety experts have been very busy providing services to Connecticut schools this year. While we gladly respond to requests for information and services, we simply do not feel that it is appropriate to solicit work no matter how intense the interest in the subject.
Responding to requests, our dedicated team of school security experts has had the privilege of keynoting conferences for thousands of people and have conducted numerous school security assessments in Connecticut. Educators, students, parents, public safety officials, elected officials and members of the public have discussed and debated an array of approaches to try to address the fear generated by the nation’s third most deadly school attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Gun control, arming teachers, metal detectors, security cameras, armed security officers, school resource officers, ballistic laminates, school design, mental health services and many other measures have been discussed at length in an attempt to improve school security in Connecticut.
When the Connecticut State Police release the much anticipated report outlining the results of their investigation, the airways will again be awash with stories about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Educators and public safety officials will again be assailed with relentless requests from reporters as is to be expected in a country with cherished and often highly critical freedom of the press. Citizens of Connecticut will speak their mind in sometimes emotional, emphatic and passionate discussions as can and must occur in a country with a right to free speech unprecedented in world history. But sadly, school superintendents, headmasters and school board members will be inundated with another round of sometimes insensitive sales pitches.
I have had the privilege to interact with several thousand educators, public safety officials, elected officials, students, parents and concerned citizens in Connecticut to discuss school security this year. Though many vendors have been respectful, reasonable and utterly professional as they attempt to conduct business in the state, some have not been so thoughtful. We urge those who offer services and products relating to school safety and security to be respectful in their efforts to make Connecticut schools safer.