United States: Shootings On Campus: Institutions Should Review These Security Measures Now

Last Updated: October 20 2015
Article by Paul G. Lannon

Paul Lannon Jr. is a partner in Holland & Knight's Boston office

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Recent campus shootings in several states remind us that violence can erupt without much, if any, advance warning. How educational institutions can best prepare should be an ever-evolving process that incorporates the latest information and best practices.
  • A crisis should not be the first time campus security works with emergency responders from outside the school. Ensure that campus safety officials have established professional relationships with key emergency personnel at state and local levels, that response protocols or memoranda of understanding are in place, and that information sharing is seamless.
  • Educational institutions also should establish a way for select faculty and staff to share information about student behavior in a confidential manner for the purpose of identifying potential safety threats and determining how best to respond.

The disturbing increase in campus shooting tragedies demands a careful review of campus safety measures. Recent incidents in several states remind us that violence can erupt without much, if any, advance warning. Educational institutions must be prepared. How best to prepare should be a regularly reviewed, ever-evolving process, incorporating the latest information and best practices.

As we have seen, campus violence does not discriminate between urban and rural campuses, or between large public and small private schools. All are at risk. Accordingly, educational institutions of all types and sizes are well advised to develop comprehensive campus safety programs that address key risk factors in a coordinated and effective manner. While complete protection from harm is not attainable, reasonable steps can be taken to minimize risks and improve response efforts. Some of the more important steps to consider are outlined below.

1. Conduct Lockdown, Shelter-in-Place and Active Shooter Training Exercises

Do campus safety personnel know how to respond to a shooting in progress on or near campus? One sure way to find out is to conduct "active shooter" training exercises, in coordination with local law enforcement, in which campus safety personnel respond to mock reports of a shooting in progress or near the campus. The exercises can improve response time, expose vulnerabilities to be addressed and clarify the roles of first responders.

What should faculty, staff and students do during a security emergency? Effective lockdown and shelter-in-place training exercises help educate members of the school community about practical steps they can take to protect themselves and others during an active shooter situation. Simple measures such as locking doors and staying out of sight may save lives.

The Department of Homeland Security maintains a helpful website with more detailed shooter preparedness information and training exercises.

2. Coordinate with Local Law Enforcement and Emergency Responders

Given their limited resources and missions, most campus safety departments are ill-equipped to respond effectively to active shooters on campus. Consequently, coordination with state and local resources is crucial. A crisis should not be the first time campus security works with emergency responders from outside the school. Ensure that campus safety officials have established professional relationships with key emergency personnel at state and local levels, that response protocols or memoranda of understanding are in place, and that information sharing is seamless.

3. Assess Physical Security

Which doors on your campus lock? Which windows? Who can lock them and how? Where are the fire alarms? Is there any video surveillance? To have an effective campus safety program, it is imperative to assess the strengths and weaknesses of physical security measures. Up-to-date and reliable information about physical security should be shared with campus safety and local law enforcement. The information will drive decision making about how best to prevent and respond to a campus safety crisis.

4. Test Emergency Notification Systems and Backups

As required by federal law, schools must have comprehensive systems for providing prompt and reliable communication to staff, students, parents and local law enforcement, both on and off campus. Relying on one method alone, such as email, is not sufficient. Emergency notification systems should cover electronic, audio and visual media to reach the maximum number of people in the campus community regardless of the circumstances. Do not overlook old-fashioned but effective audio methods, such as sirens, and visual media, including flashing lights and danger signs. For the visually or hearing impaired, these methods may work best.

Just as important as having a robust notification system is having an effective process for using it. Confirm the process for deciding whether to activate the emergency notification system and consider contingencies if designated decision makers are unavailable.

5. Identify and Support At-Risk Students

Does your campus have a threat or behavior assessment team? Is there an established means for identifying on a regular basis students who may pose a threat of harm to themselves or others? Educational institutions should establish a way for select faculty and staff to share information about student behavior in a confidential manner for the purpose of identifying potential safety threats and determining how best to respond. To avoid discrimination, such teams must conduct individualized assessments based on multiple factors and not act on speculation or stereotypes.

To be effective in identifying threatening behaviors, members of a campus community need to know what to look for and what to do with the information. Training is the first step. In conjunction with healthcare professionals and law enforcement, the campus community, particularly faculty and staff, should be trained to identify danger signals and report them to the proper authorities. This does not mean that teachers should flag every student who writes about violence or that campus security should frisk anyone wearing a trench coat. Rather, the campus community needs to be watchful for patterns of behavior that collectively raise genuine concerns about a student's health or safety. Examples of such behavior include increasing isolation or anti-social behavior, threats of violence to self and/or others, stalking, a dramatic drop in grades or attendance, and failure to comply with medical treatment plans.

Once at-risk students are identified, there should be a plan for providing counseling and support services. Crisis moments can be avoided, or at least mitigated, by carefully tailored care programs. As circumstances change, threat levels and response strategies should be reassessed.

6. Review Policies in Enrollment Materials and Student Handbooks

Published policies ensure that educational institutions have the authority and flexibility to address threats of violence on campus. Important policies to review include:

  • Reporting Process: Provide an easy-to-understand description of how to report safety concerns, including anonymous reporting options, over a variety of communications channels.
  • Cooperation with Investigators and Law Enforcement: Students and employees should be required to cooperate with officials duly authorized to investigate and respond to threats on campus.
  • Involuntary Leaves/Emergency Removal: Express authorization to place on leave any student who poses a substantial threat to the safety or welfare of any member of the campus community.
  • Medical Evaluation and Conditions for Return to Campus: Express the requirement for medical evaluation or certification by qualified healthcare professionals as a condition for returning to campus after a medical or involuntary leave.
  • Background Checks: Obtain written consent for the institution to conduct a background check that includes criminal record information.
  • Parental Involvement: Express authorization to notify the parents of students subject to a certain level of discipline or considered to be at risk to harm to themselves or others.

Conclusion

No safety programs are foolproof, and all measures must be balanced against the need to maintain a positive, nurturing academic environment that is free from discrimination and unreasonable intrusions into private matters. By following the tips in this advisory, educational institutions will be well positioned to strike the right balance for their communities.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.