School security consultants with strong integrity will lose some jobs here and there. But in the long haul, they will retain their integrity and their credibility, and their school district clients will likely do so as well.
“Draft” school safety assessment reports can trigger questions on security consultant, school leader credibility
One of my long-standing practices has been to not provide “draft” versions of our school safety assessment consultation reports to our school clients. I learned early on in my business that if you provide the superintendent, school board, and/or other client representatives a draft version of your report, you provide a greater temptation for them to try to pressure you to alter your recommendations they may not want to receive due to political and other reasons.
School security consultants who permit such a practice can potentially open themselves and their clients up to greater scrutiny and questions about their integrity should a controversial, yet necessary, recommendation become contentious and/or political — within the district, in the school-community, in the media, and/or in subsequent litigation.
Mixed messages on Bibb County Schools’ safety assessment report raises school district credibility questions
A perfect example of how this can occur is illustrated in a September 14th Macon Telegraph newspaper story about Bibb County Schools’ officials who appear to have provided mixed messages to the media, and in turn to the public, about a school safety assessment report written by a consulting firm hired by the district.
The Macon, Georgia, story lays out what appears to be mixed messages from the school district on “draft” versus “final” versions of a safety assessment report that included what became a controversial recommendation about altering the district’s role in a community agreement on not arresting students for misdemeanor crimes on school property. (This latest story is a follow-up to the controversy detailed in my last blog post entitled Safety report blasts Bibb County school discipline; Judge blasts security consultant.)
The newspaper story creates the perception that the school district may be backpedaling on a report they earlier released to the newspaper as a final version. Instead, the district is now claiming the report they released was a “draft” and the “final report” that is forthcoming will have slightly different language that potentially gives the district some political wiggle room on a controversial discipline and crime under-reporting recommendation.
Security consultants can avoid compromising integrity of the school safety assessment process
One way for professional school security consultants to maintain their integrity and long-term credibility is to not provide draft reports in the first place. Instead, my colleagues and I conduct an exit interview before leaving the district after our on-site work has been completed.
In an exit interview with the project coordinator, superintendent, and/or other district officials, school safety consultants can raise any hot-button issues and concerns, and give school officials an overview of key issues they discovered prior to and during their in-district work. By this time, most experienced consultants will have a good feel for any red flags, urgent needs for attention, and potentially controversial issues.
At this point, school officials can provide additional feedback to the consultant on the issues raised and if there is new information to consider that warrants amending the consultants’ position, they can do so. If not, the consultants can further explain their opinions, concerns, and rationale while school officials will have a feel for what is forthcoming in the consultants’ report.
Saying “no” can protect the school district and the school security consultant
When superintendents or other project coordinators ask me up-front or in the middle of the safety assessment process if we provide “draft” reports, I tell them no. I explain to them that doing so could open both me and the school leadership up to legitimate questions from parents, media, and by attorneys in depositions and/or trials as to whether they compromised the integrity of the assessment process by attempting to influence changes to the consultants’ draft reports.
As a professional school security consultant, I will not subject my client to those potential challenges to their integrity and credibility. Equally important is that I will not expose myself to such a challenge to my own integrity and credibility.
I can get another job. I can’t get another reputation and good name if my credibility comes into question.
The same applies to my clients.
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