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Safety in Schools:
Priority vs. Necessity
By Kent Journey
Safety in Schools: Priority vs. Necessity
Safety in Schools:
Priority vs. Necessity
by Kent Journey
The Security Concerns in Today’s Society
Security in schools has always been a top priority, but recently it has moved to a necessity. Active shooters
in schools have increased the level of awareness and concern for overall campus safety. In 2002, the Secret
Service completed the Safe School Initiative during which they analyzed 37 incidents involving 41 student
attackers. The focus of the study was to develop information about pre-attack behavior and communications.
The study determined that most of these acts were not impulsive but rather thought out and planned in
advance. Most importantly, it was determined that fellow classmates of the attacker had reason to believe
that a catastrophic event could occur. The findings of this study indicate that some of the attacks could have
been prevented and emphasizes the importance of schools creating safe campus programs. Safety awareness
programs, which students can and do participate in, could help improve the overall safe campus perception and
encourage students to report activities which they may otherwise ignore.
Identifying Potential Threats
While it is understood that only a school psychologist or other mental health practitioner can truly determine
and/or identify potential threats, it is important to develop guidelines so that other people know what to
report. A threat could be an expression of violence in writing, or drawing. It might be patterns of impulsive or
chronic intimidation or bullying of others or it may simply be social withdrawal. When someone notices these
characteristics the proper persons should be promptly notified. It is possible that reporting these early warning
signs may serve to help those troubled individuals and should be a part of any plan for prevention/intervention
which may take place on the campus.
A few of the outward indicators of behavior which might be reported by a teacher, student, parent, or other
concerned individual were developed by the National School Safety Center and are listed below1:
• Has a history of tantrums and uncontrollable angry outbursts
• Characteristically resorts to name calling, cursing or abusive language
• Habitually makes violent threats when angry
• Has previously brought a weapon to school
• Has a background of serious disciplinary problems at school and in the community
• Has a background of drug, alcohol or other substance abuse or dependency
1 Stephens, D. (1998, January 1). Checklist of Characteristics of Youth Who Have Caused School-Associated Violent Deaths - National
School Safety Center. Retrieved November 1, 2014, from
December 2014
©2014 ABM Industries Inc. Reproduction prohibited without permission.
Safety in Schools: Priority vs. Necessity
• Is on the fringe of his/her peer group with few or no close friends
• Is preoccupied with weapons, explosives or other incendiary devices
• Has previously been truant, suspended or expelled from school
• Displays cruelty to animals
• Has little or no supervision and support from parents or a caring adult
• Has witnessed or been a victim of abuse or neglect in the home
• Has been bullied and/or bullies or intimidates peers or younger children
• Tends to blame others for difficulties and problems s/he causes her/himself
• Consistently prefers TV shows, movies or music expressing violent themes and acts
• Prefers reading materials dealing with violent themes, rituals and abuse
• Reflects anger, frustration and the dark side of life in school essays or writing projects
• Is involved with a gang or an antisocial group on the fringe of peer acceptance
• Is often depressed and/or has significant mood swings
• Has threatened or attempted suicide
What to Expect From Your Security Service Provider
Expert security service providers take into consideration the research and recommendations on this criterial
topic made by many different federal agencies including but not limited to the U.S. Departments of Homeland
Security, Justice, Education and the Health and Human Services on this critical topic. Research shows that
prevention through communication and identifying early warning signs is one of the most critical parts of
any campus security program. Targeted violence in a school is defined as any incident of violence where a
known or knowable attacker selects a particular target prior to the violent attack taking place. Taking this
into consideration, the U.S. Secret Service published a guide titled Threat Assessment in Schools2. This guide
explains how to manage threatening situations and create safe school climates. By building assets which are
integrated into the school, family and community, responsive decision-making can be developed.
Security service providers research publications and previous events in preparation of partnering with
educational institutions. Partnerships with schools begin by forming a safety committee. These committees
provide the oversight required at each school’s campus for improved safety. The principal, superintendent or
other on-site administrator responsible for the overall campus and educational objectives would designate a
select committee. The committee, a compilation of different departments, provides guidance for the overall
safety and security objectives of the campus. Security professionals work with the committee to review
incidents and develop programs that enhance campus safety through education, training, social media and the
ongoing awareness that is developed through such a program.
2 Fein, Ph.D., R., Vossekuil, B., Pollack, Ph.D., W., Borum, Psy.D., R., Modzeleski, W., & Reddy, Ph.D., M. (2002, May 1). Threat Assessment in
Schools: A Guide to Managing Threatening Situations and to Creating Safe Schools Climates. Retrieved November 1, 2014, from http://www.
December 2014
©2014 ABM Industries Inc. Reproduction prohibited without permission.
Safety in Schools: Priority vs. Necessity
Your security services provider should develop a checklist that takes into consideration the physical plant, lighting,
existing alarm systems, audio and visual systems and the current utilization of social media. These, along with
other potential threats, are evaluated and used to create a customized plan. Whether it be a bomb scare, chemical
agent leak, or threat of violence, the potential crisis is evaluated and a threat analysis is completed.
Partnerships involving educational institutions and security service providers provide a level of preparedness
that enables the school to develop a plan for the effective intervention with at risk youth demonstrating
behavioral difficulties. Trained security professionals work with the administrators and staff to ensure that
their long-term safety and security objectives are met. By creating an environment which allows properly
trained individuals to engage in intervention/response, security providers can help schools identify crisis
and eliminate potential threats prior to them occurring. It is imperative that every program plans for a crisis
response and recovery process which enables the school community to respond appropriately and quickly and
to provide the necessary care and support. Minimizing the trauma and emotional distress that affects a learning
institution after a crisis event has occurred is a top priority.
No school can prevent all crisis events nor give the assurance that such events will never take place on
their campus. What a security service provider can do when partnering with schools is to ensure that every
reasonable solution has been evaluated, considered, discussed and planned for accordingly. The goal is to
work in securing the campus by limiting access, developing awareness programs and making the education
community focused on the safe and enjoyable educational experience of its students.
About ABM
ABM (NYSE: ABM) is a leading provider of facility solutions with revenues of approximately
$4.8 billion and 110,000 employees in over 350 offices deployed throughout the United
States and various international locations. ABM’s comprehensive capabilities include
facilities engineering, commercial cleaning, energy solutions, HVAC, electrical, landscaping,
parking and security, provided through stand-alone or integrated solutions. ABM provides
custom facility solutions in urban, suburban and rural areas to properties of all sizes — from
schools and commercial buildings to hospitals, manufacturing plants and airports. ABM
Industries Incorporated, which operates through its subsidiaries, was founded in 1909.
©2014 ABM Industries Inc.
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