Botched security response at K-12 school leads to resignation
A school board in Colorado Springs, Colo., this week accepted the resignation of a school president and placed a high school principal on leave because of a botched handling of a security incident at the school.
The story reminded of a conversation I had several weeks ago with Paul Timm, president of RETA Security, a school security consulting firm in Illinois. I was writing this article about school security and the fact there is no Clery Act equivalent for K-12 public schools. Timm talked about the need for school administrators to take responsibility for the security of their schools, given the lack of effective enforcement. I quote him at length:
"The commitment always begins with administration. You could say that the commitment should begin with politicians and funding, and I agree, I want there to be funding as well. But if you're the administrator in a building, don't you have to make a commitment? I think there ought to be that kind of commitment coming from the superintendent and principal levels, that they're going to take a more proactive approach. And there are certain ways to do that. They're not popular, but if you're going to add teeth, I have a suggestion. You could make the evaluation of that administrator have a security component to it. So if they want a good annual review, they'll also be judged on how they handle safety and security. Instead of them dishing it off to facility manager ... they have to get involved and make it a collaborative effort. I think making it part of their evaluation would change things."
The news from Colorado offers an example of a school board taking security very seriously and holding the administrators responsible. The board didn't need to wait for an annual review to make their wishes know.
Here's what happened: The Classical Academy is a K-12 charter school in Colorado Springs that educates approximately 3,500 students on three campuses. Earlier this week, the school's board of directors accepted the resignation of the school's president and placed the high school principal on indefinite leave pending a review of a security incident that occurred on campus last week, according to The Gazette.
Apparently, the shake up all grew out of an incident where a student left two propane canisters in a backpack in a high school classroom. A serious threat, to be sure. However, school officials didn't react appropriately. Here's the Gazette:
"Officials turned off the valves on the canisters, declared them safe and put them in an office.
That was on April 2. Two days later, school officials suspended a student they believed was the person who left the backpacks and notified Academy School District 20."
When D-20 security officials arrived at TCA on April 5, they decided to call police. The police bomb squad used a robot to determine the devices were not explosive."
In the aftermath, school officials revealed that other items, described at a parents’ meeting as a science project, had been found in the school recently. The items included firecrackers and rubbing alcohol."
The school board said it will hire a full-time security director to be in charge of safety training for all students and staff, the newspaper said.
Do you think sending the school president packing and putting the principal on leave were the appropriate response to this situation?