A recent post on our sister site, Campus Safety, advises school IT departments and security officials that the following pitfalls will be incredibly important to avoid in 2021:
- The overwhelming desire to get schools back to normal could cause an under-correction. And just like on the freeway, that under-correction will assure you will have the accident that you see coming.
- The intense pressure to do “something” can lead to the knee jerk reaction of over-correction. Again, like on the freeway, over correction often causes a much worse accident that you did not see coming.
- Worst of all is the oscillation back and forth between the two extremes. When this happens, you can get into both the accident you saw coming and the one you didn’t anticipate.
The key going forward will be the determination of what constitutes under and over correction, both during the remainder of and after COVID-19.
4 Questions When Considering Changes
There is and will continue to be intense scrutiny and overwhelming pressure to make schools safe from contagion.
Such a charged environment can foster imprudent purchases and ineffectual practices. Determination of a reasonable and effective path forward for any local school district will depend on the work of their district/school safety committee.
A good rubric for the consideration of potential changes by that committee can be the following four questions:
1. What is the issue to be addressed?
This is the “what is the problem” question. Too often a failure in school safety is assured by the failure to narrow the question. I want to make my school safe is a bit like the beauty pageant interview answer of “world peace.” It sounds good, everyone will agree and there is no actionable path forward. In the alternative, “I want to limit airborne virial transmission inside the school building” provides a framework for the next question. Every consideration in school safety and security can benefit from narrowing the focus to a specific actionable issue.
2. Is the change effective?
This is the “should you do it?” question. Foremost will be, how will this impact your core mission? A room-based HEPA filtration system that produces too much ambient background noise for effective teaching is not a viable solution.
It is also very much a due diligence question. Is there evidence that the change being considered will have a positive effect and lessen the identified vulnerability when used, installed or applied as recommended? Have others had a positive outcome using the same or similar change? Is there reliable third-party research (not vendor generated) on the efficacy? Does the solution serve both an immediate and long-term purpose? Here is where the work done by national organizations will be very beneficial.
3. Is the change implementable?
This is the “can you do it today?” question. Here, there are several considerations. Have you developed the necessary stakeholder support for the change? This includes both the community affected by the change and the staff required to implement the change. This is an often overlooked but absolutely critical first step in the implementation process. Do you have the adequate resources for implementation? Is your staff adequate or will new staff be required? Are you prepared to provide the necessary training and support?
4. Is the change sustainable?
This is the “can you do it tomorrow?” question. This is not just a question of commitment or ongoing resourcing, although that should be a consideration. It can also be a question of institutional inertia versus institutional commitment, particularly in operational types of changes. Until the benefit from the change is apparent there will be pressure to return to business a usual.
Guy Bliesner is a School Security Analyst for the Idaho Office of School Safety and Security.