Congressional Testimony on School Safety – House Homeland Security Committee

On Thursday, May 17, 2007, Kenneth Trump testified before the United States House of Representatives, Homeland Security Committee, at a full committee hearing on school readiness and emergency preparedness. Trump was the only witness called to testify who has frontline K-12 school security experience.

Trump’s testimony focused on:

School readiness threats, gaps, and parent expectations; 2) Restoring cut funding, and expanding funding, for federal grant programs for school emergency planning; and 3) Examining the current federal administrative structure for overseeing school safety policy, funding, and programming issues.

The full written testimony submitted for the Congressional record is provided below excluding exhibits.

Click here for a .pdf file copy of the full testimony including the exhibits.

Click here for a .pdf file copy of the General Accounting Office (GAO) report on school emergency preparedness gaps also released at this hearing. This testimony documented GAO’s findings about the lack of school emergency preparedness and gaps in school crisis planning.



PO Box 110123, Cleveland, Ohio 44111
Phone: (216) 251-3067
Web site:



Thursday, May 17, 2007, at 10:00am
311 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC




Chairman Thompson, Ranking Member King, and distinguished Committee members, thank you for inviting me to appear before you today to provide testimony on strengthening the preparedness and response readiness of our nation’s K-12 schools. Our educators and school safety professionals across the nation appreciate your recognition of the importance of including our K-12 schools in the federal government’s plans for protecting our nation’s critical infrastructure.

I would like to also specifically recognize and thank Congressman Bob Etheridge of North Carolina for his leadership and persistence in advocating for the inclusion of K-12 schools in Homeland Security policies and programs, protection of schools and school buses from terrorism, and funding of K-12 school preparedness from the Department of Homeland Security.

My name is Kenneth Trump and I am the President and CEO of National School Safety and Security Services, Incorporated, a Cleveland (Ohio)-based national consulting firm specializing in school security and school emergency preparedness consulting and training. I have worked with K-12 school officials and their public safety partners in urban, suburban, and rural communities in 45 states during my career of over 20 years in the school safety profession.

In addition to working with educators and public safety officials nationwide, my background includes having served over seven years with the Cleveland City School District’s Safety and Security Division as a high school and junior high school safety officer, a district-wide field investigator, and as founding supervisor of its nationally-recognized Youth Gang Unit that contributed to a 39% reduction in school gang crimes and violence. I later served three years as director of security for the ninth-largest Ohio school district with 13,000 students, where I also served as assistant director of a federal-funded model anti-gang project for three southwest Cleveland suburbs.

I have authored two books and over 45 articles on school security and emergency preparedness issues. My education background includes having earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Services (Criminal Justice concentration) and a Master of Public Administration degree from Cleveland State University; special certification for completing the Advanced Physical Security Training Program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center; and extensive specialized training on school safety and emergency planning, terrorism and homeland security, gang prevention and intervention, and related youth safety topics.

Presently I volunteer as Chair of the Prevention Committee and Executive Committee member for Cleveland’s Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative, one of six Department of Justice-funded federal and local collaborative model projects to address gangs through enforcement, prevention, and reentry strategies. I was an invited attendee at the White House Conference on School Safety in October of 2006. In 1999, I testified to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee as a school safety and crisis expert, and on April 23, 2007, I testified to the House Education and Labor Committee on school safety and emergency preparedness issues, needs, and actions Congress can take to make our schools safer (see testimony at or ).


School districts and other organizations engage our services to evaluate school emergency preparedness plans, provide training on proactive school security strategies, develop and facilitate school tabletop exercises, conduct school security assessment evaluations, and consult with school administrators and board members on management plans for improving school safety. We have increasingly found ourselves also called to assist educators and their school communities with security and preparedness issues following high-profile incidents of school violence. In the past several years alone, we have worked in a school district where a student brought an AK-47 to school, fired shots in the halls, and then committed suicide; in a private school where death threats raised student and parental anxiety; and in a school district where a student brought a tree saw and machete to school, attacked students in his first period class, and sent multiple children to the hospital with serious injuries.

My perspective on school safety is vastly different from the many other types of other witnesses you may have heard from in the past, or will hear from in the future. I am not an academician, researcher, psychologist, social worker, law enforcement official, non-profit agency head, or government agency representative. Instead, I bring to a perspective of front-line experience in working with public and private school staff, their public safety and community partners, and parents of our nation’s children on school violence prevention, security risk reduction strategies, and emergency preparedness measures.


Parents will forgive educators, legislators, and others they have entrusted their children’s educational direction to if their children’s test scores go down for a year. They are much less forgiving if something happens to their children that could have been prevented or better managed when it could not be avoided. Children cannot learn and teachers cannot teach to their maximum capability if they are worried about their personal safety. Education will cease as school-communities struggle to manage and recover from a critical incident, and the impact can be both severe and long-term.

Police, fire, emergency medical services, and other public safety officials are the first responders to critical incidents at schools. However, teachers, principals, custodians, secretaries, school resource officers (police officers assigned to schools), school security personnel, and other school officials are our VERY FIRST RESPONDERS when an incident of crime, violence, mass casualty, or natural disaster strike at their schools.

Preparing our public safety officials for emergencies without also adequately preparing our school officials is a serious mistake. Incidents of crime and violence occur very quickly, oftentimes with only minutes passing from beginning to end, and even the quickest response by public safety officials may place them on-scene after the incident itself is over. The actions taken by school officials as the incident unfolds, and in the first half hour or so immediately thereafter, can determine the severity of the impact on the lives of children and teachers for months and years to come. And once public safety officials complete their heroic jobs and leave the school emergency site, it will be the school officials who will carry the bulk of the responsibility for the short and long-term recovery of their schools.

When parents drop off their children at school each day, they have an inherent and typically unspoken expectation that school, public safety, and elected officials have taken every possible step to place every measure of prevention and preparedness in place to protect their children. The harsh reality is that while there have been many improvements in school security and school emergency preparedness following the 1999 Columbine High School tragedy, that progress has stopped and has actually slipped backwards since recent years due in many cases to cuts in school safety and emergency preparedness funding for K-12 schools. Sadly, most parents do not know what they do not know, i.e., that their schools are much less prepared than parents believe them to be.

We must do a better job at preparing our school officials to prevent and manage threats.

The threats include weather and natural disasters, such as we saw with Hurricane Katrina or the destruction of a school in Enterprise, Alabama. They include hazardous materials spills that may occur on roadways or railroad tracks adjacent to schools. They include school shooting rampages. And they also include the potential for schools and school buses to be targets of terrorism.

What is the extent of the threat? In terms of school violence, no one honestly knows in real numbers. One of the “dirty little secrets” in our nation’s education community is that there is no comprehensive, mandatory federal school crime reporting and tracking of actual school crime incidents for K-12 schools. While Congress enacted the Cleary Act in 1990 to improve crime reporting and collecting on college campuses, K-12 schools have no such requirements or incident-driven data in place. Federal school crime and violence data by-and-large consists of a hodgepodge collection of just over a half-dozen academic surveys and research studies. See Exhibit 1 for these limited survey sources and Exhibit 2 for my tally of school-associated violent deaths since 1999.

Unfortunately, this means that Congress is forced to make school safety policy and funding decisions based on a “best-guestimate” approach, and the American public is being inadvertently mislead when these surveys are being used to claim that school violence in America is actually decreasing over the past decade. It also means claims by the Department of Education and others that understate the threat of school crime and violence can lead to the underestimation of policy and resources for prevention and preparedness. See my aforementioned testimony to the House Education and Labor Committee on April 23, 2007, for a lengthy discussion of these issues.

There has been a historical culture in the education community of “downplay, deny, deflect, and defend” in acknowledging the extent of school crime and violence. This mindset and practice has extended to the discussion, or better stated “lack of discussion,” of the issue of schools and school buses as potential targets for terrorism. Elected and administrative officials do not want to openly address this issue with the American public out of fear of creating panic among parents.

Schools clearly fit the definition of a “soft target” and an attack upon our schools would have not only a devastating impact on Americans emotionally, but a severe impact on the American economy if the “business” of education shut downs and/or is disrupted due to a catastrophic terror attack upon our educational infrastructure.

We need only look at the following quote from the National Commission on Children and Terrorism’s report of June 12, 2003: “Every day 53 million young people attend more than 119,000 public and private schools where 6 million adults work as teachers or staff. Counting students and staff, on any given weekday more than one-fifth of the U.S. population can be found in schools.” Schools and school buses have basically the same number of children at the same locations every day of the week in facilities and buses that are unquestionably soft targets.

There are a number of “red flags” that appear to be going unnoticed in recent years. News reports in June of 2004 indicating a suspected sleeper-cell member of al-Qaeda who obtained a license to drive a school bus and haul hazardous materials; the reported (appropriate) reclassification of schools to a higher risk category in its national risk assessment program by the Department of Homeland Security in 2006; March of 2007 alert by the FBI and Homeland Security Departments about foreign national with extremist ties obtaining licenses to drive school buses and buying school buses; and even a top school administrators employed in the Detroit and DC schools who was federally charged in 2005 with a conspiracy with terrorists according to news reports. Add to that a number of other suspicious activities around schools across the country, the Beslan, Russia, school hostage siege and murders in 2004, and the history of schools and school buses being terror targets in the Middle East. While I have no firsthand knowledge, I strongly suspect our federal intelligence, justice, and homeland security agencies have even more information on the potential terror threat to schools that American parents and local safety officials may never know.

In short, the tactics have been used elsewhere in the Middle East and in Beslan, Russia. An attack our educational system would have a devastating emotional and economic on America. And it is not unforeseeable except to those who do not wish to acknowledge and deal with it for political and image reasons. Congress must sure that K-12 schools are an integral part of our nation’s homeland security preparedness policy and funding.

Yet to date, from inside the Beltway to our local communities, public officials have largely been afraid of talking about, and acting proactively upon, the idea of schools as potential terror targets out of fear of alarming parents. I pray we do not face the day where we have a “911 Commission” type hearing asking how a terrorist attack that occurred upon a school in the United States could have been avoided. We know that denial, downplay, and “Ostrich Syndrome” make us more vulnerable. We cannot continue the current course of ignoring the threat of terrorism to our nation’s K-12 schools.

Our work with K-12 school officials in 45 states over close to 25 years has found that most schools now have crisis/emergency plans. Many of those were created after the 1999 Columbine tragedy. Expert evaluations of those plans have found that the plans have frequently been put together by school officials with limited to no input from their public safety and emergency management partners; contents of the plans are often very questionable in terms of best and appropriate practices; school teachers and staff have not been trained on the plans; and the plans have not been tested or exercised by tabletop or other exercises with their public safety partners. It has been widely acknowledged, even in the U.S. Department of Education’s programs, that many plans are sitting up on shelves in school offices collecting dust.


There are many things Congress can do to help improve K-12 school emergency prevention and preparedness. But first, there are clearly some things that our educators and public safety officials on the front-lines do NOT need.

School and public safety officials do NOT need more federal research, studies, and paralysis-by-analysis reports. They do NOT need more conferences, symposiums, and gatherings. They do NOT need more advisory groups, panels, commissions, and hearings. They do NOT need more manuals, guides, templates, and regurgitation of best practices. They definitely do NOT need more earmarked “technical assistance” centers, institutes, or Beltway contracted technical assistance providers. And they certainly do NOT simply need more federal web sites.


Congress and the federal administrative agencies can take action to have a meaningful impact on K-12 school readiness and preparedness by:

  1. Acknowledging the full range of threats to schools and the limitations of current data on school violence. In particular, be forthcoming with the American public and education and safety officials charged with protecting our children about the potential threat of terrorism to our nation’s schools and school buses.
  2. Restore cut funding for school emergency preparedness planning and expand funding over time to reflect our nation’s commitment to school preparedness in the way we are beefing up protection for other national critical infrastructures.
  3. Require Department of Homeland Security grants and other funding to local law enforcement, emergency management agencies, and other public safety officials to include mandatory requirements that these public safety officials actively engage K-12 public and private schools in local emergency planning.
  4. Open select Department of Homeland Security grants specifically for K-12 schools for emergency preparedness training, tabletop exercises, school bus security, limited equipment (especially communications equipment), and related needs.
  5. Require states with Department of Homeland Security funding to include their state education departments on statewide homeland security committee policy and funding decision bodies, and actively include K-12 school safety experts in their advisory activities.
  6. Examine and modify the current federal organization and structure for the oversight and management of federal school safety, readiness, and preparedness policy, programming, and funding to allow the expertise of the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice to have broader input and leadership, rather than the Department of Education having primary responsibility for these initiatives.

Acknowledging the Threat

As noted above and in my April 23, 2007, testimony to the House Education and Labor Committee, there are serious flaws and gaps in federal Department of Education data on school violence. H.R. 354, The SAVE Act by Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, addresses a number of these issues. Congress should recognize and acknowledge the flaws in school violence and crime data, and work to improve the data, if it truly wishes to more accurately identify the potential threat to schools.

We must also acknowledge the terrorism threat to schools and school buses. It does not have to be done in an alarmist manner, nor should it be done that way. But fear is best managed by education, communication, and preparation, not “Ostrich Syndrome,” denial, or downplay. American parents, educators, and the public in general, deserve a more candid recognition of this threat so we can move to better preparedness.

Restore School Emergency Preparedness Funding Cuts and Expand Future Funding

Federal funding for the Education Department’s Emergency Response and Crisis Management (ERCM) program, now known as the Readiness and Emergency Management (REM) for Schools program, has been cut almost 40% since 2003. According to PowerPoint slide data from a presentation by a Department of Education official, the program has been cut from over $39 million awarded to 134 school sites in FY 03, to only $24 million awarded to 77 sites in FY06. See Exhibit 3 for this document detailing these facts.

The numbers of applications for this ERCM/REMS grant program have ranged from over 550 in its first year of FY03 to 301, 406, and 379 the following years. Given the Department of Education has issued the RFP for this grant toward the end of each school year (April-May) and required submissions around May-June, it is logical to believe there would be greater interest and more applications had the Department not chosen to put out calls for proposals at the end of the school year when educators are focused on testing, graduations, and school-year closure and therefore have more difficulty in putting together complex grant applications with multi-agency partners from their communities. Many of us in the school safety field believe the number of applications would be even greater if the call for proposals was put out earlier in the school year and not when school administrators are so overwhelmed with year-end school matters.

At a time when Congress is funding more resources to protect our national infrastructure such as airports, monuments, and the hallways of our government offices themselves, how can we justify cutting almost 40% from an already pithy amount of funding for helping to protect the children and teachers in the hallways of our nation’s schools?

Following my testimony to the House Education and Labor Committee hearing on April 23, 2007, as I walked back to my Capitol Hill hotel I counted eight, yes eight (8), Capitol Hill police officers at ONE street intersection, several with high-power weaponry. Capitol Hill Police cars seemed to be on every roadway, one after another. Barricades and bollards surround the Capitol and its Congressional office buildings and other facilities. Officers, metal detectors and x-ray machines are at federal building doors.

It dawned upon me what a mixed message it sends to our American children, their parents, and their educators that while security and emergency preparedness have been understandably well-funded and beefed up to protect those of us here in these Capitol Hill offices today, funding for protecting and preparedness for children and educators in the hallways of their schools has actually been cut nearly 40% since 2003, along with cuts to the federal Safe and Drug Free Schools and COPS in Schools program, in a post-9/11 world. It not only sends a mixed message, but a wrong message and is a wrong action.

Unlike many other narrowly focused federal grant programs, the ERCM (now REMS) grant provides for a comprehensive and balanced program consisting of prevention, mitigation, preparedness, and response components in order to be successfully funded. This means that school programs can be designed as they should, not skewed towards prevention programming-only or security/policing/emergency response-only, but designed instead with a balanced and comprehensive approach of prevention, preparedness, and response. The threats facing our schools today require nothing less.

While the authority for this particular program rests with the House Education and Labor Committee, the Committee on Homeland Security and Congress overall should work together in a bipartisan manner to immediately restore funding cut for the ERCM (now REMS) program and significantly increase future funding multiple times the original already-under-funded $39 million funding allocation for this program. The need is significant. Reducing school emergency prevention and preparedness funding in a post-911 and post-Columbine world is illogical, counterintuitive, counterproductive, and inconsistent with our national homeland security philosophy of preparedness.

Require Homeland Security Grant Recipients to Engage K-12 Schools in Planning

Local police, emergency management agencies, and other funding recipients of Department of Homeland Security grant funding should be required to include K-12 public and private schools in local emergency planning. This means more than simply inviting schools to sit at a table in a countywide tabletop exercise. Schools should be integral parts of local emergency planning and public safety grant recipients should be required to establish relationships, memoranda of understanding documents, cross-training, school-specific exercises, and other joint planning.

Open Select Homeland Security Grants to K-12 Schools

Schools should be made eligible as primary applicants to seek funding for emergency preparedness for teachers, administrators, and school support staff such as bus drivers, secretaries, custodians, and others on the front lines protecting kids. Funds should designated for training of these school officials; tabletop exercises with public safety and community partners to get school emergency plans off the shelves and people talking to see if they would work in a real emergency; to improve school bus security and emergency preparedness; for limited equipment needs, particularly to improve communications capabilities (mass parent notifications capabilities, interoperability with public safety officials, two-way radio and other communications on campuses; etc.); and other related preparedness activities.

Require States to Include Education and School Safety Experts in State Planning

Congress should require states receiving federal Homeland Security dollars to include state department of education and K-12 school safety experts in their statewide homeland security policy and funding governing bodies. Schools and school safety experts are still too often absent from state homeland security planning.

Modify the Current Federal Structure for Overseeing School Safety and Readiness

Congress needs to look at how federal school safety and policy is managed in the federal government administrative structure. The Department of Education has long been the lead source for violence prevention curriculum, intervention programming, and dealing with strategies school as bullying prevention, youth suicide, and related prevention policy and funding, and many believe they the expertise for addressing these issues is best housed in the Education Department. It is worth noting that the Department of Education’s current Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools actually originated as the drug-free schools program, with safety being added as an after-thought as incidents of violence in our schools increased over time. In fact, it was not until a couple years ago that this “program” was reshaped under an “office” of safe and drug free schools.

Yet the challenges, knowledge-base, and expertise of public safety and emergency preparedness have expanded greatly in the past decade and, in particular, in our post-Columbine and post-9/11 world. Congress should explore whether the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice’s richer history, experience, knowledge, and expertise with security, policing, and emergency preparedness programming would provide a more focused leadership on managing K-12 school security, policing, and emergency preparedness components of our nation’s school safety policy and funding. While these two departments do work, and should continue to work, with the Department of Education, the emphasis of responsibility for specific programmatic areas of public safety and security, and emergency preparedness, would be worthy of restructuring and/or realigning.

In the short term, Congress should establish a permanent interagency working group of the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Education to create a formal structure for communication, planning, policy and funding decisions combining their respective expertise areas and disciplines. A periodic conversation or meeting, or a joint manual publication, between the Department of Education and the Department of Homeland Security is simply not enough. An interagency working group, supported by state, local, and front-line experts in K-12 school safety and security, would help build more meaningful and expert-designed federal policy and funding decisions on K-12 school safety, security, and emergency preparedness.

In the long term, the leadership for school security and emergency preparedness should be positioned outside the Department of Education in Homeland Security and Justice Departments working with, but not led by, the Department of Education


Chairman Thompson and distinguished Committee members, thank you again for your leadership in protecting me, my family, and our nation. I appreciate the opportunity to have testified before you today and look forward to answering any of your questions.


Kenneth S. Trump, M.P.A., President
National School Safety and Security Services
PO Box 110123 , Cleveland, Ohio 44111
(216) 251-3067 |

Click here for a .pdf file copy of the above testimony including the exhibits.