How a Pre-Columbine Mindset is Threatening School Safety

Posted by on February 18, 2011

Shootings, hit lists, explosives, and even a murder do not seem to be keeping some school administrators and boards from hunkering down into a pre-Columbine mentality on school safety.

School Administrators and Boards Playing School Safety “On-the-Cheap”

Hiding behind challenging fiscal times, some school “leaders” are playing school safety “on the cheap” in spite of high-profile incidents occurring in their schools.  Not only are districts cutting violence prevention and security programs, some are dodging taking appropriate action even after a crisis or threatening situation.

Following a murder of one school administrator and the shooting of another administrator, a school superintendent responded to my suggestion that he hold a community meeting on school safety by saying, “That could get out of control.”

Another district called for a proposal for a security consultation after two separate shooting incidents in two years, including one where homemade explosives were found at a student suspect’s home. The top administration never responded back once they got the proposal and a mid-level administrator implied they needed the services, but the district was facing budget cuts.

Yet another school district that had a student with a hit list and explosives found on a police search of his home first asked for a proposal for comprehensive services, then asked for a second proposal reduced by 50% after they got the first proposal and cost.  A week later, the urgency for services disappeared quickly as the administration responded that they decided to hold out in hopes of getting a grant for what they acknowledged was sorely needed school safety support.

And one school board member from a suburban school district, when introduced to me at a meeting, offered these as the first words out of his mouth:  “We don’t have a violence problem.  We have a budget problem.”

School Officials Hide Behind Tightening Budgets, Do Little on School Safety

It has been documented that too many penny-wise and pound-foolish school boards and administrators have put violence prevention and school security programs first on the chopping block as education budgets tighten.  Now there is increasing evidence that others, even after high-profile incidents where they know they should be taking action, are hiding behind tightening budgets as an excuse to not act.

Combine these shortsighted decisions with a lame federal school safety policy and funding skewed away from violence and toward “bullying” and “climate” — and of course, “civility” — and what do we have?  A pre-Columbine mindset.

There is plenty of things school safety consultants can and are doing.  A close look will tell you most of us are not starving.  In fact, most of us are not as frustrated by the business end of the inaction by school “leaders” on proposals as we are by an education community which is increasingly falling back into a pre-Columbine “head in the sand” mentality toward school safety.

Chat with an experienced school safety expert and they will tell you that we are in a climate in the education community today which is blinded by tunnel-vision focuses on two issues:  Budgets and improving test scores. 

Pre-Columbine Mentality Returns to Education Community

They will also tell you that while they do not wish to see anyone harmed in a school, the climate is particularly ripe for the next Columbine-like incident (or one even worse) to occur any day now.  The handwriting is truly on the wall.

It is likely that when the next major school violence incident occurs, legislators, educators, and others will once again start the head-scratching and questions of, “How did this happen? What could we have done to prevent it?”

When that occurs, I’ll be standing nearby with some mirrors.  All that many education “leaders” will need to do is look in the mirror for the answer.

Are your school board members and administrators in a pre-Columbine mindset regarding school safety?

Ken Trump

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3 thoughts on “How a Pre-Columbine Mindset is Threatening School Safety

  1. starviego says:

    “…the climate is particularly ripe for the next Columbine-like incident (or one even worse) to occur any day now. The handwriting is truly on the wall.”

    Any day now? Do you know something we don’t know? I’d say if schools face threats, it is by the in-school police officers, who are now criminalizing teen passage rituals like getting into fights on the playground and smoking in the boy’s room. Down with cops on campus, and down with CIA-style covert ops on our schools like the ones at Columbine, Red Lake, and Virginia Tech!

    1. Ken Trump says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have not seen school police officers “criminalizing teen passage rituals like getting into fights on the playground and smoking in the boy’s room.” Nor have I ever seen or heard of “CIA-style covert ops on our schools” or, for that matter, do I know what that even means. Perhaps it is you, not I, that knows something no one else knows?

  2. starviego says:

    There are numerous examples of school kid hijinks that once would have been handled by the teachers or vice principle which are now being dealt with by the juvenile criminal justice system.

    And yes many school shootings are covert ops. For example, I’ll bet you never heard of the 40+ eyewitnesses who identified additional shooters at Columbine by name.

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