There have been two things in the news over the last few days of interest to those in the safety and security management career field. First, there was a story about how rumors about student’s alleged plans to commit suicide were spread via text messages over cellular phones. A student had in fact committed suicide several days prior to the incident in
Police in nearby Searcy called asking if
The story illustrates a very difficult challenge for the safety and security professional. There is no ability to determine the validity of a text message and if parents or students become panicked, you have to respond appropriately. Students may only be spreading urban legends or rumors they’ve heard in school without much regard to the accuracy of the information. Students have always spread rumors and it is only the advent of cell phones and incidents such as Columbine or more recently Virginia Tech that safety and security professionals are forced to take action. Even the merest hint of something going amiss can’t be ignored, the merest scrap of information may be all of the warning police or school officials may receive before a violent act occurs. Of course, the information may prove to be nothing more than a rumor. If discovered prematurely, the guilty parties can try to deny all knowledge of such intentions and may try to cover up any evidence.
Angry parents and school officials may not appreciate what they perceive as a false alarm in the event the potential attackers are never identified or prosecuted. What is often overlooked during such emotional times is that by preventing a potential attack, lives were saved. It is impossible to prove a negative (how can you show there was going to be an attack with no arrests?) but the opposite is far more grave should the indications of an impending attack be dismissed for a lack of evidence or credibility on the part of the source. Parents, school officials, security personnel and even students all need to be involved in identifying and reacting to potential violence before it occurs.
The last point is what concerns me about the reaction by the school officials in
On a different note, four women in