Gardena School Shooting: Security Policy Disconnects Create Safety, Credibility Risks

Posted by on January 20, 2011

Failure to follow security procedures and to communicate with parents can easily lead to a post-crisis crisis for school leaders.

Two students were wounded at Gardena High School on Tuesday after a gun in a 10th grader’s backpack discharged in a classroom, striking a 15-year-old girl in the head and a 15-year-old male in the neck.  Security was beefed up after the incident.

The focus almost instantly shifted to security lapses at the school, where required random metal detector scans were not conducted that day.  Communications gaps were also reported by parents who experienced problems in getting messages from the district’s mass parent notification system and other means.

The headlines which followed are not favorable for the school district:

“You guys failed us, and you failed our kids,’ one parent says at a campus meeting.  L.A. Unified’s new chief says the school did fail to follow district policy calling for daily random weapons searches.  


Superintendents and board members hire us as outside consultants to come into districts with fresh eyes to identify disconnects between policy and day-to-day practice. It is very common to find some level of disconnect in most every district. In a crisis, such disconnects heighten parental anxiety, potentially increase safety risks, and position school officials for greater liability.

Unfortunately, as budget cuts deepen and the focus on raising test scores intensifies, critical internal evaluations of school security and preparedness measures are decreasing.  External assessments tend to result more from a reactive, post-crisis mode than from school leaders who can see that a short-term investment on the front-end can save lives, liability, and community confidence in the long haul.


Is your school district proactive or reactive in examining its prevention, security, and preparedness practices?  What disconnects exist between school safety policy and practice in your schools?

Ken Trump

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