On Thursday, May 6th, 1999, Kenneth Trump testified before the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions at its hearing on school safety. At the recommendation of Senator Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), Committee Chairman James Jeffords (R-Vermont) invited Ken to address school safety issues. The focus of Ken’s presentation was to present the perspective of a career school security professional on how school security and crisis preparedness can be improved, and to discuss the types of services provided to schools by a private school security consulting business such as National School Safety and Security Services.
Ken stressed that while violence prevention and intervention programs, along with existing research initiatives, are appropriate strategies, there is a significant need for improving basic security and crisis preparedness measures in the immediate school environment so that these longer-term strategies for shaping student behaviors can be successfully and safely delivered. He stressed that the rhetorical and sometimes politically- motivated statement that, “Schools are the safest place in the community,” while perhaps statistically true, means little to the families and victims of school violence. His message: While we cannot prevent every incident, we can take steps to reduce the risks by improving school security and crisis preparedness measures in the immediate school environment (here and now) so that the education, prevention, and intervention programs can be effectively delivered. True comprehensive safe schools plans efforts must consist of a balance of prevention, intervention, security and crisis preparedness strategies.
Ken’s testimony was particularly important in that it was the first known testimony provided by a career school security professional with school security-specific experience since the series of school shootings last year. It may also have been the first testimony ever provided by a career school security professional with experience in urban and suburban districts as a school officer, investigator, gang unit supervisor, and director, and as a national consultant to urban, suburban, and rural schools. It was also important in that it was one of the few times that our Congressional leaders heard not only about prevention and intervention strategies, but also about the importance of school security assessments, school security and crisis preparedness training, and related safe school measures.
The full written testimony submitted for the Congressional record is provided below.
STATEMENT OF KENNETH S. TRUMP President and CEO
NATIONAL SCHOOL SAFETY AND SECURITY SERVICES, INC.
PO Box 110123, Cleveland, Ohio 44111
Phone: (216) 251-3067
Web site: www.schoolsecurity.org
COMMITTEE ON HEALTH, EDUCATION, LABOR, AND PENSIONS UNITED STATES SENATE
HEARING ON SCHOOL SAFETY
Thursday, May 6, 1999
Dirksen Office Building, Room 628
Background and Introduction
Chairman Jeffords and distinguished committee members, thank you for inviting me to appear before you today to provide testimony on what is the most important issue on the education agenda in America today: School safety.
My name is Kenneth Trump and I am president and CEO of National School Safety and Security Services, Incorporated, a Cleveland (Ohio)-based private small business specializing in providing school security and crisis preparedness training, assessments, and consultation services to school officials, law enforcement, and other youth-service providers nationwide. I have personally had the opportunity to provide these services in 30 states.
School districts and other organizations contract with us to provide training for teachers, counselors, principals, central office administrators, superintendents, board members, security personnel, support staff (such as bus drivers, custodians, maintenance staff, secretaries, cafeteria workers, etc.), law enforcement and emergency service personnel, parents, and other members of the school community. Current training programs include topic such as “lessons learned” from national tragedies, managing student threats, “new times – new crimes” (homemade bombs and bomb threats, technology offenses, terrorist-like threats, etc.), drug and concealed weapons trends, school gang awareness, school security assessments, crisis preparedness planning process and crisis plan content, access control, reducing staff victimization, and related subjects.
Our company also provides professional school security assessment services. A professional assessment involves us working with educators in reviewing policies and procedures, interviewing key players in the school operation, reviewing crime and discipline data issues, and examining physical facilities, in addition to steps individually tailored to address specific security concerns of school officials. The purpose of an assessment is to provide educators with an evaluation of existing security conditions within their school district and recommendations for improving these conditions at the building and/or district levels.
Assessments serve as a proactive risk management and planning tool. Areas reviewed in a professional assessment include, but are not necessarily limited to, crisis preparedness, physical security, security and crime prevention education and training, security staffing and operations, special event security management, security policies and procedures, community coordination with emergency service providers and broader school community, transportation security, personnel security, security linkages with prevention and intervention programs, and related topics. Professional assessments focus on both the positive school safety strategies already in place in a school, as well as areas for reducing risks by enhancing security strategies not already in place.
Our services also include working with school crisis teams, security personnel, administrators, and others to facilitate the development of crisis preparedness guidelines for preventing and, if necessary, to effectively manage crisis incidents. All of our services focus on school security and crisis preparedness from a perspective distinguished from traditional prevention and intervention program approaches, although all of these strategies must be in place in order for schools to have a comprehensive school safety program.
Prior to expanding what was a part-time business into our present full-time operation three years ago, I served over seven years within the Cleveland Public School District’s internal security division as an officer, investigator and supervisor of a five person Youth Gang Unit which dealt with all gang-related crimes in the district’s 127 schools with over 73,000 students. Over the course of my three years supervising the gang unit, our district experienced a 39% reduction in school-related gang crimes. Following my work in the Cleveland schools, I served as assistant director of a federal-funded gang prevention project in three southwest Cleveland suburbs, where I also served as security director for the 13,000 student school district, where I remained until expanding my private business into a full-time operation in January of 1997.
In addition to my front-line experience in urban and suburban schools, I have had the opportunity to train and consult with schools in urban, suburban, and rural communities. This has given me the unique opportunity to see the diverse security issues challenging these different school districts and communities. It has especially driven home the point that these security issues vary from community to community, district to district, and even school to school at a given time, as well as over a period of time.
My professional affiliations include serving as current chair of the K-12 subcommittee of the American Society for Industrial Security’s Educational Institutions Security Standing Committee and as a member of the International Association of Professional Security Consultants. I am also author of the 1998 book entitled, “Practical School Security: Basic Guidelines for Safe and Secure Schools,” (Corwin Press), a copy of which has been provided to each Senator who is a member of this committee. My past professional affiliations and other biographical summary information is listed in the attachment to this testimony.
It is particularly noteworthy that, to the best of my knowledge, this testimony is the first provided by a career school security professional. I am not an academician, researcher, psychologist, social worker, police official, lobbyist, or government agency representative such as those who may have come before Congress or other federal officials in the past years to address school safety, nor do I wish to claim expertise from these respected perspectives. However, I do commend this body for recognizing that school security professionals, school resource officers, and related individuals who have been working directly, and exclusively, on safe schools issues for years have a separate, professional insight largely left untapped to date in providing input on federal, state, and local safe schools policy on a consistent basis.
My specific testimony will focus on four areas:
- Examining how we frame school safety issues.
- The role of private service providers in supporting school security improvements.
- What Congress can do to promote school security and crisis preparedness.
- Funding issues associated with school security and crisis preparedness services.
Framing School Safety Issues
Several important points drive home the fact that we have not done everything possible to create a safe learning environment in many of our nation’s schools. These include:
1. Schools have traditionally approached “school safety” through prevention and intervention programs alone, often failing to take reasonable, consistent, and professional risk reduction measures from a security and crisis preparedness perspective.Violence prevention curricula, conflict resolution programs, peer mediation, mentoring, counseling, psychological services, and other initiatives are appropriate and necessary strategies. However, such efforts typically focus on the longer-term shaping of behaviors and/or require a consistent, ongoing reinforcement to become instilled within our children. Such longer-term or ongoing efforts, however, tend to differ from strategies for dealing with the security of the immediate environment in which these and other educational services are being delivered. In short, a school’s 9:00am violence prevention curricula and 11:00am conflict resolution program will have little impact if strangers are able to walk into any open doors and commit a violent act which could be prevented by balanced, rational security measures.
2. Progress in improving school security and crisis preparedness has historically been hampered by denial, image concerns, and related political influences within school districts and communities. Many school officials have falsely believed over the years that by implementing professional security measures and crisis preparedness plans from a security perspective, they will receive adverse media attention or that they will be viewed as poor managers by parents and the school community. This perceived impact on a district’s ability to pass school levies, elect board members, and/or gain other community support has resulted in many schools avoiding implementing even the most basic security risk reduction measures, such as reducing the number of open doors at a school or training school staff to greet and challenge strangers walking within their schools. When we can walk into a fast food restaurant in our country and be greeted with, “Good morning. May I help you?,” faster than we can in most of our schools, then we clearly do not have even the most rudimentary security presence in our educational facilities.
3. Political influences have shaped school security policy at the local and national levels by negatively impacting crime reporting accuracy, by creating a void by prohibiting consistent input from school security professionals and school resource officers, and by failing to create opportunities for research and funding of professional school security measures . In addition to the most important impact of creating a void in basic security and crisis preparedness measures within our school, political influences have shaped school security policy issues at both the local and national levels. First and foremost, many crimes which occur in schools and on school grounds go unreported to law enforcement. In fairness to school administrators, while some of the underreporting has been due to political motivations, a great deal is also due to the fact that our school administrators are not adequately trained in distinguishing crimes from disruptive behaviors. Although efforts to improve such reporting have been made in many states and localities in recent years, current national school crime data on offenses reported to law enforcement does not represent a realistic picture in the eyes of most school security professionals, and other data is limited to the parameters of limited research studies, surveys, and related initiatives. The result is that we are basing important federal, state, and local policy and funding decisions on limited, and oftentimes conflicting, data.
The ability of school security professionals, school resource officers, and others in similar capacity to publicly speak about the real security issues within their schools is also often limited. Again, denial, image concerns, politics, and bureaucracy often prohibits these individuals to openly discuss or testify to their real findings and recommendations on what needs to be done to improve school safety. It is not uncommon to find that individuals who do so against the will of their superiors soon become transferred or unemployed.
In addition the impact on their careers and the immediate safety needs of their specific schools, policy-makers and public officials fail to receive accurate information on the security problems and needs in our schools, and public policy is thus made in somewhat of a vacuum. When input is received, it is often limited and provided with extensive editing before dissemination. Likewise, input may also be limited to school security professionals from larger, urban districts or other segments of the school security community and thus may not reflect the broader needs of school communities from suburban or rural districts representing a significant part of our country.
School security has also been held captive to a “Catch 22” situation of not being formally researched and evaluated from an academic perspective. The absence of evaluation of school security staffing models, effectiveness of security equipment and technology, crisis preparedness planning strategies, etc., has created a void in the academic data and literature. Ironically, an emphasis on accountability and effectiveness as a criteria for funding safety initiatives has subsequently resulted in less funding for true professional security strategies since funding must be based on proven research and evaluation. The result: No research and evaluation equals no funding, which equals no basic security presence here and today in our schools.
Fortunately, school officials, elected officials, and others have made improvements in reducing the politics, encouraging crime reporting, and allowing school security professionals to evaluate school security, to train school personnel, and to help develop and test school crisis preparedness measures. In fact, progressive school administrators now realize that school security and crisis preparedness is a necessary public relations tool, rather than a public relations nightmare. Unfortunately, the denial and political spin still exists, far too much across the country.
Some of the most commonly misused “stand-alone” statements since the series of school violence last school year include that:
Schools are the safest places for children in the entire community. We agree that schools are often safer than other locations within the broader community. However, “Safer than what?,” and, “What is an acceptable level of school violence?,” are the real questions which need to be asked. If we have 20 kids killed in the community and 15 kids killed in our schools, is this acceptable and worthy of no concern and action? Certainly, the families of the 15 kids would disagree with this statement.
While we need to be balanced and rational in addressing school safety, one killing is one too many and to not discuss what needs to be done to reduce security risks in our schools is, in our opinion, nothing short of child abuse and neglect!
It is not school violence, it is community violence. We also agree with the statement that youth violence is a community problem. Violence observed in our schools reflects systemic problems within our communities and homes. But again, this statement is often used to fuel denial and a lack of response by some officials who choose not to reduce security risks in schools.
Schools do NOT create violence. However, this does NOT negate the responsibility of school officials to take balanced, rational risk-reduction measures to prevent violence in our schools. If a bank, store, or shopping center has either a history or high risk for violent behavior, such as car-jackings, robberies, or assaults, would we not expect those in charge to take steps to reduce the risks of future offenses? Why then should we expect anything less in our schools?
School security threat trends have changed significantly over the years. Thirty years ago or longer, threats to school security included violation of school rules such as class cutting or periodic talking back to school officials. Within the past ten to twenty years, weapons, drugs, gangs, assaults, serious fights, and other criminal activity changed the face of school security threats.
Today, we are facing what we call “new times and new crimes” such as homemade bombs and bomb threats, technology related offenses (such as computer theft, hacking, counterfeiting, and e-mailed threats), and other terrorist-like threats. As these and other new challenges cross the schoolhouse door, some school officials and parents are still debating whether 40 out of 40 doors at a school should be left wide open in a manner to let strangers walk in unchallenged. And, at the same time, we send our school officials to work daily “unarmed” in terms of security and crisis preparedness training, guidelines, and resources to prevent and to manage such threats.
School officials today, especially after the series of school shootings last year and the Littleton tragedy most recently, are calling our offices and our colleagues across the nation for immediate assistance. Some of the requests are unquestionably knee-jerk reactions and unrealistic. But to prevent such future tragedies and the subsequent planning, we need to meet the one consistent request we are receiving from all school officials who call: Balance out the research and long-term programs with some IMMEDIATE security measures to improve the safety of our immediate environment.
Balanced and rational steps for improving the immediate security and crisis preparedness of all school environments can and should be taken in at least four categories:
- Security-related policies and procedures which are consistently enforced.
- Training all school personnel, including support staff, on school security trends and strategies.
- Having each school’s security professionally assessed and implementing the recommendations from these assessments.
- Developing, testing, revising, and training staff on crisis preparedness guidelines for dealing not only with natural disasters or suicides, but also for preventing and managing criminal incidents such as homemade bombs and bomb threats, gunfire on campus, hostage situations, abductions, large altercations, and similar offenses.
Within this framework, we deal with practical issues such as training school officials, who often have to search students for weapons, on how to recognize concealed weapons. Contrary to the perception created from the school shootings nationally, the most popular weapons in schools today are box cutters, knives, and razor blades. Yet we fail to train those people who must deal with these and even more concealed weapons on how to even recognize their presence. Other items in staff training were listed in the introductory comments of this testimony.
In our security assessments, we examine access control, awareness levels of staff on challenging strangers, trees and shrubs which can contribute to security problems if left untrimmed, the absence of communication devices such as phones or intercoms in each classroom, signage to direct emergency service personnel or legitimate visitors into our schools, the security (or lack of) for the billions of dollars in new technology going into our schools and for its acceptable use, security of our science labs where chemicals can be stolen to make homemade bombs, key control, lighting, and other practical risk reduction measures. Likewise, we focus our crisis preparedness recommendations on school-emergency service provider relationships, having floor plans availability, using communications equipment, having emergency codes, training staff as first responders for medical situations, knowing not to touch pipe bombs or suspicious devices, and having specific plans in place to know who will do what before emergency service personnel arrive, when they are on scene, and in dealing with the “post-crisis crisis” after a crisis occurs. Although security equipment and manpower may be tied into some of these assessments and recommendations, it is certainly not the only strategy as is often perceived when one mentions school security and crisis preparedness.
The Role of Private Service Providers
Private school security service providers such as our company can offer the following to our schools:
- A professional perspective for those who do not have in-house security or school resource officers.
- A professional perspective for those who do have in-house security or school resource officers, but who need an independent expertise to augment or evaluate existing security programs.
- The ability to be independent of local politics and to submit findings and recommendations not tied to local political obstacles.
- The ability to be independent and not tied to grant funding or other agendas, constraints, etc. often associated with some non-private organizations.
- The ability to focus on being cutting-edge and professionally-oriented.
Although it may be tempting to view private school security service providers as opportunists based on recent events, it is important to realize that there have been professionals providing such services prior to recent tragedies. Unfortunately, there are far too many overnight experts and charlatans. However, these exists in all areas of the violence prevention business, including on the prevention and intervention side — not just on the security and crisis preparedness side.
Criteria for evaluating professional school security consultants should include:
- School-specific and security-specific experience. Law enforcement, military security, or similar security experience outside of schools does not equate to a school security professional. Nor does being a former school employee. Look for school specific security experience and knowledge.
- Independent and non-product affiliated, i.e., not tied to sales, sales commissions, etc. for equipment or products.
- Knowledge of the real world of schools, not simply based on the reading of a book or writing an article on the subject.
- Verifiable credentials, qualifications, references, and company credibility in the field.
- Cutting-edge knowledge and experience, not simply “canned” programs and products.
What Can Congress Do?
Congress can help improve school security and crisis preparedness by:
- Working to incorporate professional development and training into higher education programs for educators and in-services within school districts. Senator DeWine has expressed a strong interest in taking a leadership role in this area and such initiatives should be supported.
- Balancing research, prevention, and intervention with tools and resources for addressing the safety of the immediate environment through the methods described above.
- Building in a mechanism in Safe and Drug Free Schools funding to allow districts to legally use an increased amount of funds toward school security and crisis preparedness strategies from a professional school security perspective.
- Establishing regulations and/or guidelines for school districts in selecting school security consultants, such as the criteria noted above.
- Ensuring that there is consistent input at the federal level, and by encouraging the same at state and local levels, from school security professionals, school resource officers, and related professional who have a wealth of information to share related to policy and funding needs for school safety.
Currently, many school districts must use a “cut and paste” approach to funding truly professional school security and crisis preparedness training programs, security assessments, and related services. Oftentimes, grants and internal operational funds obtained for other aspects of school safety and education must compete with opportunities for districts to get professional school safety services. School officials need to the ability to chose a service based on their unique concerns and needs, and not have to slant their efforts toward a particular focus for the sole purpose of meeting grant requirements or other budget issues.
We should consistently prepare our school officials to be informed, alert, and proactive in preventing and, if necessary, in managing security and crisis incidents. The question is not whether the Littleton, Colorado, incident or the other school tragedies should serve as a wake-up call. The real question is whether we will simply hit the snooze button and go back to sleep.