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School Safe – Sexual Behavior and Security

You’re probably wondering, what does sex have to do with security? Some would say a lot. Other might answer, there’s no relation between the two. And, still others would say, what are you talking about? Then again, there’s another group, the ones who really don’t care. They don’t care as long as such things don’t go public. Depending on your perspective regarding campus safety and security, the subject could be very important. Sex and security could be part of your safety planning policies and procedures. When a breach occurs, you respond with sure and swift action. Right? Perhaps some basic questions should be asked. For example, how safe is your school from exploitation by staff and students? What about sexual battery, date rape or sexual harassment? How about teachers having sex with students? Ever done a survey about the school climate and how people feel? Do staff and students really feel safe?

We’re talking about a range of behaviors related to crime prevention strategies. In any organizational environment, personal interactions occur. Some good and some bad. This comes in many forms. Such as, supervisor to subordinate, staff to staff, staff to student and student to student. When you think of the campus environment, what comes to mind? How do the members treat each other? In terms of safety and security, we often think of alarms, officers, locks, etc. What about relationships? How safe do you feel on campus? What about sex? Are there situations where associations can be compromised? Aside from the criminal victimization, and the abuse of the victim, what about the liability? Naturally, the needs of the victims come first. So, personal safety is a crime prevention issue. Preventive measures concern early anticipation of wrongful actions. Anticipation requires vigilance and appraisal of potential problems. And, appraisal leads to action to reduce opportunities for adverse incidents.

While prevention of victimization is the goal of crime prevention, liability is also important. Hence, sex on campus can be a huge liability in more ways than one. Some, particularly in the media, are suggesting that sex on campus is increasing. Statistics can be and often are misleading. Yet, that’s beside the point. The point is, how safe is the campus environment? Recent media coverage pretends to suggest that teachers are molesting students more frequently. Does that really happen? How would we know? A couple weeks of intense national media coverage, and we’re prone think it’s an epidemic. Lately, it seems, there has been particular focus on female teachers and male students. From an historical perspective, we know that incidents involving sexuality as weapon don’t always get reported. We don’t know the exact extent to which people are victimized. Sex and security are very much related issues of campus safety. So, what are you doing to safeguard staff and students? Based on these unique considerations, are administrators seeking answers and developing solutions? Obviously, there’s no one hundred percent foolproof solution. But, there are measures that can be taken to reduce opportunities. The objective of crime prevention is just that. It’s reducing opportunities for breaches in safety and security protocols. Sometimes it’s simply called being alert and taking appropriate action.

Staff engaging in intimate contact with underage students should pose serious concerns for school administrators. Effective leadership must take a stand against unprofessional and illegal behavior. Recent headlines portray somewhat disturbing occurrences. Sex and security are modern day significant issues for the school administration. Lapses in behavioral conduct and protective measures can, in part, be traced to school management. Management must express leadership in every aspect of the school’s environment. It must be vigilant, proactive and engaged in the activities of the campus environment. If your lifestyle reflects a nice upper middle class gated community environment, with all the trappings of comfort, convenience and self-indulgence, then think again. Campus security is a deadly serious never-ending process of facilitating the safety and security of the students, staff, faculty, visitors, and property of the entire institutional infrastructure. It is an urgent and essential aspect of self-focused student life, faculty preoccupation with academic pursuits, and staff absorption with administrative burdens. Institutional safety and security is as much a component of the educational process as any other. Protective efforts support the educational and developmental mission of the entire complex mix of the realm of academia. At its best, “School Safe” practices, policies and procedures are part of a service-oriented mission, with critical goals and objectives. These collective endeavors offer unique opportunities to promote safety, security, as well as enhance education and personal responsibility.

Working together to enhance school security, staff and administrators can design and implement effective strategies. Such efforts involve proactive thinking and effective planning. Yet, no system of protective action is perfect. While banning certain kinds of conduct may be difficult, vigilance and early intervention can reduce the opportunity for incidents to occur. When clear violations of the law or policy occur, appropriate punitive action must be taken. Action must be sure, certain and swift imposed. Investigative process, legal protections and associated procedural safeguards obviously must be ensured. All personnel must be alert to breaches of trust, in which the teacher-student relationship is seriously violated. Sexual victimization must be dealt with to fullest extent of the law, school rules and public policy of the community. From school aides, to students, to teachers and principals, in cooperation with security and law enforcement, the school must be seen as a safe place to pursue an education. And, it should be noted, that no school is immune from such behavioral inclinations. No matter whether public or private, religious or secular, or any given location, abuse is highly probable. According some research, suspects included a range of persons, such as teachers, principals, custodians, bus drivers, and security personnel. Prohibitions on inappropriate relationships should be clearly spelled out in school policies and procedures. Background investigation and proper screening of personnel is essential. Misconduct must be reported, investigated and thoroughly documented. Everyone plays a key role in addressing inappropriate interpersonal behavior when school is in session. This also moving quickly to identify when boundaries have been crossed. For the teacher and the student, professional conduct applies both on and off campus, whether on or off duty.

Effective strategies for safety and security begin with leadership and supervision. Just because a staff member is in a position of authority, does not necessarily mean they are a good leader. First and foremost, good leaders lead by example. Staff and students must work together to ensure the proper reporting of misconduct, criminal behavior and other violations of policy. Clear, concise and straightforward policies on conduct should be well-published and enforced. Appropriate behavior must be modeled by the staff. Students and staff must know that certain types of behavior will not be tolerated. Everyone within the campus setting has a responsibility for safety and security of all persons. Cooperation and collaboration are essential to the overall plan of action.

From a criminal behavior standpoint, people commit illicit and illegal because they want to. They may assert some mental health excuse, once they have been caught. Or, they may claim all kinds of excuse. The bottom-line though, people do things because that is what they wanted to do. They used someone else to fulfill their need. Perpetrators know what they are doing. They find a target of opportunity and try to exploit it to their advantage. So called experts can try to explain away behavior all they want. But, in reality, people who violate rules, commit inappropriate acts or break the law, know what they are doing. Typically, there are usually early warning signs. Some may be subtle and some may be overt. The key is vigilance for any incidents that may represent safety and security problems. Staff and students should learn to be alert to improper relationships. This applies to actions that cross personal boundaries and potentially breach rules of conduct. From subtle innuendos to violent acts, all personnel should be on guard. On one level, this may apply to situations where teachers and students cross physical boundary lines. Or, look for opportunities to be alone with each other. Sometimes, it may be an issue of improper touching, or discussing sexual information that is inappropriate to academic interests. Intimate personal disclosures of one nature or another during conversations may be another indicator. These are early warnings signs that should trigger further analysis.

As a team effort, school staff and students must address openly the realm of all real world possibilities. Living and working in an academic environment must command a high level of interpersonal trust. A comprehensive safety and security plan must include the full range of personal safety issues. Possible targets of opportunity and areas of vulnerability must be assessed carefully. Schools can build upon current policies, procedures and tactics already in place. School security staffs and local law enforcement can assist in cooperative program design and implementation. Developing crime prevention countermeasures requires the full integration of thoughts and actions to keep people safe. Reducing victimization means everyone contributes to the process. A crime prevention plan involves basic concepts. Resources are available to assist administrators and teachers in proactive efforts. There are at least seven major components are essential to any safety and security plan: access controls, emergency procedures, training, communications, liaison with community partners, ongoing vulnerability assessments, mechanisms for addressing early warning indicators. Everyone should think about safety, security and relationships.

References:

1. Kingsbury, A. A., Introduction to Security and Crime Prevention Surveys, (Springfield: Charles C. Thomas, Publisher, 1973), page 6;

2. http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=11996

3. Turk, W.L., School Crime and Policing, (Upper Saddle River: Pearson – Prentice Hall, 2004) page 63;

4. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/08/22/earlyshow/main789087.shtml