As education budgets tighten and the overall economy remains uncertain, the draw to the almighty dollar increases. Now, more than ever, “buyer beware” needs to be the mantra of consumers of school safety information, services, and products.
The line between professional, best practice school safety information and product vendor-influenced information appears to be getting more and more blurry every day. Some issues of concerns I have seen include:
- Security consultants, including those serving school safety, who have “strategic alliances” or “partnerships” (some open, many less obvious) with product-vendors, thereby raising questions as to the true independence of these consultants. This can, and should, beg scrutiny and questions from school superintendents and boards considering hiring any school safety consultant. Is the school safety consultant truly “independent” and “not product affiliated” or are their hidden alliances, relationships, and strings attached which can influence the consultants’ recommendations to the school district?
- Education and public safety associations selling their membership lists, publication article space, annual conference presentation slots, and in some cases, their organizational souls, to product-vendors who “buy” their way into the associations via corporate sponsorships, ads, and/or other financial contributions to the associations. Product vendors don’t underwrite education and public safety association breakfasts, lunches, hospitality rooms, or other activities because they have money to throw away. They do it to buy access and influence in the organization! As one former association director told me, “More and more we have to dance with the devil. It’s just a reality of the financial times to keep the association afloat.” While the financial challenges for non-profits are understandable, the resulting concern is that educators and safety professionals who are members of these organizations may not see the “back door” influence of the hands of these vendors in the information they receive about school safety and emergency preparedness through the association. They are certainly seeing less and less of the days when associations can pay for independent, non-vendor-affiliated keynote and workshop presenters for the association. As a result, members get information skewed from the angle and/or agenda of the product vendors providing and/or sponsoring the “educational” session. Depending upon the presenter and vendor, the amount of unbiased, best practice information can and will vary.
These are just a couple examples of how tough economic times potentially taint school safety information being received by educators and school safety professionals. We’ll be sharing more as time goes on.
Buyer Beware! It is only likely to get worse as the economic times get worse.
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