Boarding School Security Series – Part 2

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Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 9.31.26 AMRandal S. Doaty is the Director of Security at The Hill School in Pottstown, PA. He served as a municipal police officer for 13 years attaining the rank of Chief of Police. Randy currently maintains a private investigation license and has offered a broad spectrum of security and investigative services for the past 25 years. He is very familiar with the private school culture, having been the parent of a boarding school student and a member of the Board of Trustees at The Perkiomen School in Pennsburg, PA. Randy has also served as a keynote speaker at TABS and other school security events.

Tracking Controlled Substances & Contraband

If you run an independent board school, it is likely that you will come across some controlled substances along the way. Drugs seem to find their way into every teenage population. The confiscation and control of illegal contraband is usually not the responsibility of the security staff in most boarding school environments. It wasn’t in our school when I arrived as Director of Security, but that has changed.

Somewhere along the line, the practice of faculty and administration in private schools confiscating and destroying drugs seems to have become the norm. The truth of the matter is that a controlled substance in every state requires specific authority and licensing to actually be in control of certain substances, including all illegal drugs. In some schools, this reality has been blurred by tradition.

So what’s the big deal? You confiscate the drugs, destroy them and no one is any worse for the wear. This enables you to avoid bringing in law enforcement and subjecting yourself to some “Right To Know” equipped media reporter trying to find some dirt on your lily clean school. I understand the motivation and the reasoning. What you may not fully understand is the risk!

If some creative kids managed to get into your stock of confiscated drugs before you destroy them, you are at risk. If some student ends up telling police you confiscated drugs off of them, the police may come calling and want to know where they are. If a bad batch of drugs kills another user, the drugs that you confiscated from a student may be valuable evidence in another case. The possibilities are limitless.

We utilize an evidence collection and tracking log sheet similar to those used by the police. It provides a clear chain of custody of drugs and other contraband. Most importantly, it offers proof to anyone who should ask that our school has a system in place to document our handling of these items, right through final disposition. You may also want to talk with your local law enforcement if you can have a policy that allows you to turn over all items without question. Many departments will gladly cooperate!

Covert Cameras – Another Thing to Worry About

If you have been reading my blogs, you will recognize the recurring theme that independent boarding schools have different security needs and concerns from the public school realm. This is especially true when it comes to the subject of covert camera concerns. Say what? Covert camera concerns? Yes, that would be the concern that someone is illegally monitoring someone’s private space in your school. When you have a boarding population, the risks are enormously higher.

If you Google the topic of covert cameras, you will be amazed at the availability of high tech, wireless video and audio recording devices in the on-line marketplace. These hidden cameras come in every shape and size and allow the user to see and capture images of very private moments. They can be ordered, shipped and recording in a bathroom or locker room in your school in a matter of days and for just a few dollars. It is so easy it is scary.

Is this really a legitimate concern for your school? Absolutely! If the nude images of your underage students end up in the public web domain, they are not only violations of their personal privacy, but potentially child pornography. If they should end up in a highly publicized criminal case, your school could be front and center in the worst public relations nightmare you could ever imagine. Many people could be hurt very badly, not the least of which is your school reputation.

The first line of defense for these types of devices is having a no tolerance policy for covert recording devices. This refers to those devices that look deceptively like one thing such as a clock radio or smoke detector, but actually offer covert video recording. Secondly, you want to have clear policy on the prohibition of the unauthorized audio or video recording of others and strong punishments for doing so. Mere possession of these devices needs to be prohibited.

If you suspect anyone in your school is covertly recording anyone, contact law enforcement. If you are not sure, every state has a registry of licensed private investigators. Some of these PI’s actually specialize in searching for hidden recording devices and other tech bugs. A strong policy, good vigilance and decisive action if a covert camera is suspected or found let’s your school community know you are serious about protecting the privacy of others.

Active Shooter Fear – My Perspective

An “active shooter” scenario may be the most feared occurrence in our educational community today. Rightfully so! What is more terrifying than a suicidal maniac entering your campus with a “kill until killed” mentality? In all likelihood, precious lives will be lost and the emotional well-being of every unfortunate soul who was there or knew someone who was there will be permanently scared. So what do you do?

As a Director of Security at a private boarding school, I am often asked about my thoughts on the active shooting, mass murder epidemic in our school system. I am asked what I would do if one of these disasters would unfold in my educational community. The answer is simple, though the reality is not. I would do the best I could do with the tools and resources I have at hand at that moment and pray that our training and plans are effective at reducing our losses.

I look at preventing a mass shooting event similar to preventing cancer. You can take certain measures to reduce risk. You can exercise vigilance and hopefully minimize loss through early detection. Sadly, you can do little to guarantee that either cancer or mentally deranged people won’t upset your life or your sense of security. When it comes to disaster, no one can guarantee anything, at any price. Things happen. How well you prepare is what can ultimately affect your degree of loss.

The active shooter presentation and speaker circuit is flooded. Many of these speakers offer excellent advice and point to tools, policies and procedures that can reduce or minimize loss of life. I applaud everyone who has stepped up to provide their knowledge and expertise in responding to these tragedies. If you have not sought training, employed strategies and equipped your school with mass notification systems and other technologies, shame on you.

Even more troubling than the possibility of one of these murderous rampages, is an attitude that it will “never happen at our school”. At the time this blog was written, the private boarding schools had yet to be among the numbers of schools that have seen a mass shooting or other murder spree. We are not immune. We may currently be justified in not worrying, but we could eventually be guilty of not being prepared. I urge you not to take security and some of these modern day risks too lightly. It’s too important.

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