“20 Years After Columbine, What Have We Learned? reads the NY Times headline for an article analyzing how our country has been impacted by recurring school shootings:

Columbine was more than the deadliest assault till then on a high school in the United States. It was a defining horror of the nascent digital age. Much of it unfolded onscreen in real time. Cowering students used cellphones to report what they had seen or heard.


Crisis management tech for schools evolve

Even though school shootings tragically continue, a lot has changed in 20 years. For example, a crisis management mobile app designed for K-12 schools called Blackboard SafetyList is one of the most sophisticated technologies available today, giving crisis teams in schools and their districts the ability to manage an emergency with far greater speed and effectiveness than ever before.

Blackboard SafetyList instantly alerts and convenes the response teams, turns analog plans into digitized action plans, assigns and tracks tasks in real-time and records all activity for future analysis and improvement. The app includes a library of over 45 pre-built crisis response checklists to help coordinate team efforts in an emergency.


New York schools fail SED security audit

As CEO of Groupdolists, maker of the technology platform upon which Blackboard SafetyList is based, I am acutely aware of the increasingly critical role this technology and other technologies can play in optimizing a school district’s ability to respond swiftly and appropriately to a dire emergency.

So it was concerning to see the recent findings of the New York State Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, in an audit of the NY State Education Department (SED). The goal of the audit was to ensure the SED is keeping schools safe by their compliance with legislation and regulations governing safety planning. These are the main shortcomings identified in the audit:

  • The SED is not sufficiently monitoring school districts’ compliance with school safety planning requirements.
  • No standardized procedure is in place for districts to submit their school buildings’ plans to local law enforcement. Yet this is the group most in need of these plans since local law enforcement would be among the first to enter the scene of an active shooter incident or other emergency.
  • Because of the SED’s lack of oversight and/or misinterpretation of its directives, school districts were found not to have followed SED guidelines consistently.

It is interesting to note that the deficiencies identified in the Comptroller’s report hold one attribute in common: They are administrative gaps. Now that these disconnects have been identified, they can be corrected relatively easily with the right technology.


Solving for administrative gaps

Sophisticated crisis management technology like Blackboard SafetyList are also designed to close administrative gaps by integrating with other technologies, such as technologies that monitor compliance, that standardize procedures and that communicate guidelines to school districts in a clear, eChecklist format.

So, the Comptroller’s report does an important service that will help make NY schools safer, and it’s reassuring that the SED essentially has agreed with and has pledged to address the Comptroller’s recommendations.


Lessons learned from the security audit

All states can draw important lessons from the NY Comptroller’s findings, including the fact that administrative gaps in crisis preparedness, which likely are very common, can be corrected relatively easily with the right technology. Another lesson is the acknowledgement that advanced crisis management technology plays a necessary role in guiding a crisis team’s actions during an incredibly stressful, fast moving and complex crisis, such as an active shooter. Only with administrative gaps plugged and state-of-the-art technology is a school district truly prepared to be able to respond to such an awful event.