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How to Identify True School Safety Experts

Kelly Moore
June 19, 2024

The quest to identify genuine school safety experts is crucial in today's discussions, sparking significant attention and debate. Social media, online forums, and general discussions about school safety are often muddied by self-declared "experts" without a universal certifying body, creating confusion and slowing progress in ensuring effective school safety measures for our schools. Employing critical thinking in assessing these experts is an essential practice.

Efforts are underway to establish standards and certifications for School Safety Director roles in our schools. Notably, initiatives led by ZeroNow and its National Council of School Safety Directors are at the forefront of this movement. However, a closer look at the prevailing practices nationwide reveals significant disparities in the expectations of this pivotal role. These differences stem from the varied experiences and exposure to school safety, with each expert navigating this complex domain either independently or collaboratively. Although most are genuinely committed to enhancing school safety, some lack the necessary experience or depend too heavily on titles to assert their expertise, which ultimately hinders progress.

School safety experts come from a variety of backgrounds—including school administration, law enforcement, fire departments, and the military. However, expertise in school safety extends beyond these fields and varies significantly within the community. Success as a school safety expert requires a multifaceted skill set, and certain factors can cast doubt on one's credibility. Unfortunately, amidst this diversity, finding the right expert can be challenging.

To navigate this landscape, it's crucial to understand the three keys to finding a true school safety expert. First, recognize that expertise in school safety extends beyond traditional roles like law enforcement—it encompasses a comprehensive understanding of emergency management's four phases: prevention/mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Second, it's important to acknowledge that some experts are specialized, excelling in specific aspects of safety such as video surveillance. Finally, due diligence is essential—assess the proficiency of potential experts by reviewing examples of their work, and evaluate their problem-solving skills and adaptability in crisis scenarios.

When engaging with prospective experts, emphasize practical application over tenure and titles. Assess their proficiency in crafting, revising, and implementing school safety plans and seek tangible examples of their work. Moreover, evaluate their adaptability in crisis scenarios and their range of transferable skills—such as emergency management or program implementation.

Choosing a school safety expert is a significant decision that can impact the lives of many. Just as roles like Facility Directors or Finance Directors are prioritized within educational institutions, the same level of diligence should apply to selecting safety leaders. Ensuring every member of the educational community feels secure is a fundamental prerequisite for unlocking their full potential.

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