Alliance Board Members on Florida’s ‘Safe-School Officer’ Implementation

Two Secure Schools Alliance board members recently spoke with the Washington Post’s Kayla Epstein about the Florida law requiring schools in the state to employ a “safe-school officer” to guard against active shooters. A school in Manatee County, Florida, hired and armed two combat veterans, which has sparked debate over how best to secure schools.

Alliance Board Member Dr. Erroll Southers told the Post:

“I have to be honest, I have never conducted a [school] assessment where this level of deter and defend was necessary…I teach in Israel, I teach in France, places where terrorism is an issue. I’ve not seen this anywhere, not in an academic and an educational environment.”

Importantly, Florida’s mandated safe-school officers are not necessarily school resource officers. Alliance Board Member Mo Canady, who is also the executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), told the Post:

“The guardian concept, the civilian in there, I get it, and I understand why they might go to that length, being in that part of the state, where they’ve had one of the most horrific shootings ever. It doesn’t surprise me…But it’s not necessarily what we would recommend. We would rather see sworn law enforcement officers, well trained, tactically sound, in those situations.”

Read the full article, “A Florida school’s answer to campus shootings? Combat veterans with semiautomatic rifles and Glocks.”

Police Foundation Releases New Reports on Averted School Violence

The Police Foundation recently released two studies delivering findings from the Averted School Violence (ASV) database. The Foundation’s Center for Mass Violence Response Studies, in collaboration with the U.S. Justice Department COPS Office, implemented the ASV database to provide a platform for sharing information about averted incidents of violence in institutions of elementary, secondary, and higher education. The ASV project defines an incident of averted school violence as a violent attack planned with or without the use of a firearm that was prevented before any injury or loss of life occurred.

A Preliminary Report on the Police Foundation’s Averted School Violence Database

The preliminary report analyzes 51 averted incidents of school violence selected from the ASV database to begin to improve our understanding of averted school attacks. The report begins with a case study of one averted attack and then details findings on the 51 averted incidents in the study. It concludes with recommendations for law enforcement and school administration to improve school safety. Read the full report.

A Comparison of Averted and Completed School Attacks from the Averted School Violence Database

As a companion to A Preliminary Report on the Police Foundation’s Averted School Violence Database, this report compares and analyzes 51 completed acts of school violence with 51 averted incidents from the ASV database. It includes findings on the demographics of individuals who plan attacks, victims’ demographics in completed attacks, and community characteristics. The report also provides important recommendations to minimize school violence and improve student and school safety. Read the full report.

A Note on Door Safety Solutions from Michele Gay

At a recent school meeting, a parent was excited to share a revelation: perhaps those door-jamming mechanisms in hotels – the ones that swing into place – could be an easy, affordable way to secure doors at schools. While I love hearing suggestions from parents (after all, we all have a role to play in school safety), I had to explain why this type of solution actually puts students in danger, rather than protecting them. It broke my heart to dampen her enthusiasm, but I had to educate her about the importance of building and fire safety codes, Americans With Disabilities compliance, and unintended usage of barricade devices.

Michele GayWe have so much more work to do to educate parents, teachers, and the entire school community about door safety. Thankfully, with the generous support of the Door Safety & Security Foundation, we have facts to tackle door lock myths and misconceptions. Help us educate others by sharing this post or my recent blog post and video. Let’s eliminate confusion and hone in on safety solutions that are legal and time-tested.

And please, let’s keep talking. I love hearing how you have been able to make a difference in your community. So whether we meet at an event, chat over social media, or exchange emails, we want to hear from you. Because of you, our movement is gaining momentum, and together, we are honoring Joey and Emilie by helping schools improve their crisis prevention, response and recovery capabilities.

Thank you for your time, and for helping us raise awareness for this important cause.

Michele Gay, Co-founder and executive director, Safe and Sound Schools

DHS Releases K-12 Active Shooter Exercise Starter Kits

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) has released Exercise Starter Kits for the K-12 community focused on an active shooter incident as part of the Campus Resilience (CR) Program. The Exercise Starter kits were developed in support of the Department’s school safety efforts, including its work with the Federal Commission on School Safety.

The CR Program’s Exercise Starter Kits are self-conducted tabletop exercises (TTX) that provide school districts and schools with a set of scalable tools to develop a TTX that can be tailored to validate or update their existing emergency operations plans, policies, and procedures, while also identifying issues, gaps, and areas for improvement in response to an active shooter incident.

The K-12 Exercise Starter Kits are currently available at the elementary, middle/junior high, and high school levels. Each Exercise Starter Kit includes a set of planning documents that contain pre-populated exercise content that aligns with the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program’s (HSEEP) methodology and principles. The kits include:

  • An Exercise Conduct Briefing for presentation during the TTX
  • A Situation Manual to provide background information on the TTX, scenario content, as well as discussion questions for participants
  • A Facilitator Guide for assisting facilitators in delivering the TTX
  • A Participant Feedback Form Template for players to provide candid feedback on the TTX
  • An After-Action Report Template for summarizing key strength and areas for improvement following the TTX

The launch represents the first phase of the K-12 ESKs. The new K-12 kits are a part of the CR Program’s other suite of Exercise Starter Kits, which are designed for institutions of higher education and focus on a cyber breach, hurricane, and active shooter incidents.

Requests to obtain the new starter kits can be made on the DHS ESK website. Learn more in ESK overview below.

DHS ESK Starter Kit for K-12 community

Statement on Federal School Safety Commission’s 2018 Final Report

Final Report of the Federal Commission on School Safety_cover

On December 18, 2018, the Federal Commission on School Safety’s final report was released, proposing best practices and policy recommendations for improving school safety. The Alliance focuses on improving security infrastructure, security technology and life safety systems as part of a holistic approach to stopping school violence.

“The Commission’s final report contains a range of topics and findings, not all of which are in the Alliance’s purview,” said Secure Schools Alliance Executive Director Robert Boyd. “To be clear, the Alliance is not endorsing the full report. Indeed, many of our partners may voice opposition to aspects of this report as their expertise dictates, and we support our partners in their potential critiques. Nonetheless, there are parts of the report that we do endorse.”

The Alliance fully endorses the Commission’s language and recommendations in Chapter 16, Best Practices for School Building Security. Keeping intruders from our schools is an essential first step in preventing school violence, and the Alliance applauds the commission’s support for code and legal compliance of all school security solutions. The Alliance specifically thanks DHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Infrastructure Protection Scott Breor for his leadership in drafting this section of the report.

“The final report from the Federal Commission on School Safety is expansive,” said Alliance Board Member Dr. Erroll G. Southers, who is also the Director of the Safe Communities Institute at the University of Southern California. “While the report contains best practices and recommendations that could be effective in preventing school violence, there are other problematic suggestions that give one reason to pause. While the Alliance does not endorse this report in full, we recognize that stopping school violence is a complex, multifaceted challenge. Defining the most effective methods to stop school violence will require further research, continued collaboration between the public, non-profit, academic and private sectors, and an enduring allegiance to the safety of the nation’s students.”

Beyond the Alliance’s specific focus area, it also supports ideas in report chapters 5 and 19.

  • Chapter 5, Using Suspicious Activity Reporting and Threat Assessments to Enhance School Safety, emphasizes the importance of anonymous reporting systems and threat assessments, such as Colorado’s Safe2Tell, founded by Susan Payne. Providing a method for assessing threats, as well as a safe, anonymous way for students and community members to share concerns with authorities, are key components in stopping school violence.
  • Chapter 19, Active Shooter Preparedness and Mitigation, focuses on training and awareness. Safe and Sound Schools co-founder and Alliance Board Member Michele Gay has long-argued for the need to train K-12 students and teachers to understand the types of suspicious behaviors that should be reported via anonymous reporting systems.

The arguments in Chapter 19 should help jump-start that important training effort. The chapter also points to the new DHS Active Shooter Table Top Exercises, developed by DHS’ Office of Academic Engagement, as well as other training available for specific sectors. However, the chapter fails to mention NFPA 3000, the new standard for community-wide Active Shooter Hostile Event Response. If we are to effectively address mass violence in our schools and communities, we must engage the entire community and train together, rather than doing so in silos.

Finally, the Alliance commends the leadership of Deputy Education Secretary Mick Zais, who led this effort by carefully engaging and soliciting input from a variety of credible sources. In search of holistic solutions, his inclusive and engaging leadership is a model for public, private, non-profit and academic collaboration going forward.