As a follow-up to our previous blog, I wanted to share some real-world solutions that are helping schools proactively PREVENT.
Proactive prevention starts with empowering and equipping students, families, teachers, churches and other community members [like all the people coming forward now who observed “concerning behaviors” with this disconnected young man in Newtown, CT] with the right tools to anonymously or non-anonymously report incidents, concerning behaviors and signs of evil before the evil builds and escalates into a tragedy. Prevention is possible and prevention is very affordable.
A lot of time, money and resources are spent on reactive security equipment, plans and training, yet tragedies are still occurring. For example, schools and colleges invest hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars into:
- Security Personnel
- School Resource Officers
- Emergency Radio Systems
- Secured Door Monitors
- Annual Building/Security Reviews
- Crisis Response & Training
- Table Top Exercises
- Emergency Response Plans
- Building/Visitor Access Software
- Badges & Identification Cards
- Access Doors and Locks
- Surveillance Cameras
- Mass Notification Systems
- And numerous other response efforts
Are these expensive “old school” investments in reactive security and reactive responses really the best way to protect our students, teachers, schools and communities?
And because the bottom line plays such a major role in schools and colleges, how do real-world costs stack up between reacting vs. preventing?
Let’s take a look at some data and evidence from real-world incidents and tragedies and see.
- Virginia Tech has spent more the $48M dollars reacting to this preventable mass shooting tragedy.
- Penn State University has been fined more than $70M and spent more than $20M so far reacting to this preventable tragedy involving child abuse.
- South Hadley School District paid Phoebe Prince’s family $225,000 not to sue the district and also had significant legal fees in multiple court cases involving the school and the students involved in bullying Phoebe until she committed suicide.
- Pine Plains Central School District must pay $1M court settlement for their deliberate indifference involving the continuous bullying of a student.
These are just a few examples of evidence clearly showing that preventing incidents and tragedies would have been a lot less expensive to the school’s/college’s bottom line. In addition to these hard costs, think about the significant costs related to reputational damages for each school/college.
Even more costs can add up if bystanders, staff and family members are in need of counseling, mental health resources, and in some cases, health resources from their tragic experiences. Schools and colleges cannot tolerate or afford more tragedies and must change. “Old school reactive efforts” do not provide a safe haven for students or a safety net for adults and do not equip people to do the right things, connect the right dots and proactively prevent preventable incidents.
It is time to change, and the time to start preventing preventable incidents is right now. So what can be done and what is being done to prevent preventable incidents and prevent incidents from escalating and becoming the next tragedy? Real-world success stories provide guidance and solutions that are working in schools and colleges.
Problem: School and College leadership cannot prevent what they don’t know about, and “old school” incident reporting approaches (one-size-fits-all online forms, e-mail links, text messages, general hotlines, drop boxes, etc.) are clearly not the right tools to get the right information to all the right people.
Fact: Statistically, only 1 or 2 out of every 10 incidents are being reported, so 8 or 9 times out of 10 schools/colleges are in reactive mode.
Solution: Schools and colleges are using a new web-based, secure and anonymous prevention platform called TIPS with customizable incident reporting and surveys that are accessible from the school or college web site so the entire community has easy and anytime access to organization specific incident report types (bullying, cyber bullying/drama, weapons, threat to harm self, threat to harm others, child abuse, sexual assault, etc.) with customized forms for each. Then, and this is critical, once the incident report is submitted, the prevention platform must immediately and automatically get the right information to all of the right people in the right places so the “team” can investigate, connect all the right dots, intervene, document and proactively prevent preventable incidents.
Problem: Institutions have incident reports, but still fail to prevent preventable incidents and tragedies.
Fact: All of the following tragedies had incident reports of concerning behaviors: Virginia Tech, Penn State, Tucson, Colorado, South Hadley, Tehachapi, Anoka-Hennepin and many, many more.
Solution: Securely share the right information with the right people, designated by the school or college based on the incident type and school/campus. No meetings, no paper shuffling, no lost e-mails, no yellow sticky notes, no confusion about what actions have or have not been taken. Teams can securely access and document all actions taken, work together to investigate, intervene and prevent incidents and monitor at-risk individuals and incidents so they do not get a chance to escalate into more serious incidents and tragedies.
Problem: Bullying-related consequences and lawsuits are mounting and campuses are not equipped to prevent bullying or prevent consequences or prevent lawsuits.
Fact: South Hadley Public Schools failed to prevent recurring and relentless bullying of a student, which led to the suicide of the student, a $225,000 settlement with the family of the student, negative headlines, reputation damage and other legal fees due to criminal cases involving five students that were named as the bullies. More recently, Pine Plains Central School District was found to be deliberately indifferent for failing to prevent relentless harassment and bullying of a student through high school. The United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd circuit upheld a unanimous decision of a lower court ruling resulting in a $1M judgment.