What You Need to Hear

Readers of this column have provided helpful feedback in guiding topics to be addressed in future issues. In a recent e-mail, a member of a large consulting firm expressed gratitude for the direct manner in which many of the topics addressed in this column have been broached. The writer commented that they often couldn’t be as blunt in dealing with the clients that they serve. He went on to say that colleagues at his firm were grateful that the column speaks to many issues that school officials really need to hear, but sometimes do not want to. While I have received a considerable amount of comments indicating that most people appreciate this approach in confronting tough school safety issues, there is always a concern that I sometimes fail to reach members of my target audiences because of this directness.

While I do make a genuine effort to be tactful, and occasionally even sensitive, memories of horrible events experienced as a student, as well as those encountered by others, compel me to be clear and direct when addressing school safety topics. I watched a young man bleed to death from gunshot wounds across the street from a high school because of local politics, turf issues and attempts to pacify vocal segments of the community. I came very close to being shot on the same night for the very same reasons. While undoubtedly striking a nerve with some on occasion, my hope is that most readers are willing to at least consider what they read in this column each month.

Several dozen planned school shootings and bombings have been successfully thwarted by techniques that my former co-workers and I developed. We have shared these concepts with many that have read my columns and articles, attended our seminars and viewed our training videos. Many of the concepts that have been discussed in this column are now in common use around the nation. The home search technique, multi-disciplinary threat assessment and the plain view vehicle checks that have been shared in this column and other venues, were developed in the Bibb County Board of Education Campus Police Department during my tenure as chief of campus police.

These techniques are now used across the nation by people who picked up the concept in this magazine. I by no means claim to be the final authority on school safety, but I hope that most readers are willing to consider the ideas put forth in this column. While there are others who also choose to take a direct path in addressing school safety matters, a number of experts in the field have told me that they are not in the position to convey information as directly and honestly as they would like. Private sector and government school safety professionals frequently face difficult challenges in telling people what they need to hear instead of what they want to hear. School safety efforts, like so many other important topics in our time, can be corrupted by the constant cry to be politically correct to the point of being ineffective.

Each of us have an obligation to continually question, challenge and re-examine what we hear, see, experience and most importantly, what has become standard practice. We also owe it to ourselves to be sure that we are truly listening to and inviting the feedback from others that is needed. Anyone can be subject to send out signals to others that we are open to, and expect to hear certain things. In reality, isn’t it better to hear it from someone else, while there is still time to take corrective action, than to learn the hard way that a change needs to occur?

When engaging a consultant, requesting help from government school safety personnel, seeking the council of local public safety experts or trying to involve students and parents in safety efforts, educational leaders should work diligently to afford them a genuine opportunity to offer their opinions. And just as not every concept put forth in this column will be right for every school, some of the feedback and advice offered by others will not be appropriate for every situation. Careful evaluation and consideration must be used to select the best concepts for each environment. But, being open to new ideas or different ways of doing business are important to success.

Today’s school officials are overwhelmed with information. In some instances, they can also be overwhelmed with notions and assumptions that are not necessarily accurate or current. There are many people out there who can help schools more effectively address safety concerns. Qualified consultants, public safety officials, government school safety experts, school employees, parents and staff can all contribute. But to make a difference, the suggestions and opinions offered must be heard by the people who have authority to act, and the power to affect change. Most of the people who read this column are the decision-makers. If you take the time out of your busy day to read this column each month, I probably have not offended you too badly. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to say, keep an open mind and keep up the good work, there are many special people who are dependent on your best efforts to do so.

Michael S. Dorn has been a full-time campus safety director for 22 years. He has authored 14 books, lectures frequently across the nation and has provided consultation and technical assistance to more than 2,000 public safety agencies and learning institutions worldwide. He can be reached at .

About the Author

Michael Dorn serves as the executive director for Safe Havens International, Inc., an IRS-approved, nonprofit safety center. He has authored and co-authored more than 20 books on campus safety. He can be reached through the Safe Havens website at www.safehavensinternational.org.