School security consultants: Taking a stand or riding the fence?
If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.
This has always been one of my favorite sayings. It pretty much sums up an important part of the character of many professionals I have come to respect over the years.
On the flip side of the coin are the fence-riders. They are the wafflers. They are the people who, in an effort to play up to everyone, will either say whatever they think the audience before them wants to hear or simply talk a lot but really say nothing to avoid offending someone.
One of the best compliments I have ever received came from a well-respected, veteran school security director in Indiana. John Weicker, who is in charge of security for the Ft. Wayne Community Schools, on more than one occasion has told me that one thing he values the most from our professional relationship is that I will tell him what he needs to hear, not necessarily what he wants to hear.
Unfortunately, over the years I have encountered many consultants in education, general security, and school safety who will ride the fence on any issue that is not clear cut in one direction or another. While this may play well to some politically-correct audiences, these wafflers and fence-riders fail to realize that they lose the respect of their peers and those potential clients who do not want to waste their limited budgets to hire a consultant that will talk a lot but really tell them nothing of practical use — especially what they NEED to hear.
I encountered this in recent years, for example, when I have challenged the latest fad in school safety training called ALICE training. More specifically, I have challenged this program’s component on teaching students to attack armed intruders. ( I won’t repeat my arguments herein, but multiple blog articles have been written.)
As a long-time advocate for school police, I was initially surprised when I received a few unprofessional, personally-attacking emails from ALICE advocates. They appear to have somehow felt that because I had a strong track record of being pro-school police, I had to agree 100% with those who advocated for ALICE. It was not until I received even more messages of agreement and support from those in education, school-policing, and other arenas, that I was reminded that taking a stand may not always be popular but it is the right thing to do.
It is not easy being both a consultant and an advocate for your professional field. Oftentimes the two roles are in conflict. If you’re known for telling people what they need to hear, but may not want to hear, they just avoid hiring you to avoid the truth.
Will your school security consultant take a stand or will he/she waffle and ride the fence on important, but sometimes controversial, issues? If not, they not only may give you weak recommendations, but may also increase your legal and public relations liability in the process.
Most importantly, if your school security consultants will not stand for something they — and ultimately you — will fall for anything.
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