I’m a proud mother a precocious little girl who’s turning 5 in June and attending kindergarten in August. My daughter, Para, is already gearing up for the first day of school.  She’s practicing her ABC’s, how to write her name, and how to share with others. Never in all my life did it think her father and I would have to add how to deal with an active shooter to that list.  Para’s father and I have already visited Para’s new school, and academics wasn’t top of mind for us; it was safety.  We want to know what they are doing to keep the kids safe, and if they are doing enough.

Like many schools, this one has a mix of security protocols.  Someone in the office had to buzz us in, they scanned our licenses, and took our picture. Our guide during the tour shared that teachers are required to keep their windows locked at all times.  Still, I question whether it’s enough, not just at Para’s new school but at all schools.  

Working in the world of corporate ethics and compliance for the past decade has taught me that visibility leads to knowledge. One of my favorite quotes is from Confucius, “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance.”  I think many of the school systems across the US have a blind spot and do not realize that what worked yesterday may not work today, and certainly will not work tomorrow.

Since the Columbine massacre in 1999 schools have conducted lockdown or active shooter drills.  There are tons of articles and studies that question whether existing lockdown procedures are sufficient. I find myself agreeing with people like former SWAT officer Greg Crane, founder of the ALICE Training Institute, stating that it is not enough. What Mr. Crane’s organization is doing for schools is a great thing and very needed.  However, schools still can do more. 

What’s happening in our schools are acts of terror, and anyone that sees them as less isn’t seeing the whole picture.  Schools not only need to equip their teachers and administrators with the knowledge of what to do in the heat of the moment, in life-or-death situations, but also give them the tools, knowledge, and visibility to see what’s going on in their schools.  

Nicolas Cruz’s incomprehensible act of terror did not come as a surprise to many people in his school or community.  He was the subject of well over a dozen tipster calls, with at least two of them being tips to the FBI.  Why was a decade worth of signs and tips not enough to stop this horrific event from occurring?  Mistakes were made, but I also question if anyone really had the ability to see the whole picture.  

In the world of corporate compliance, having a centralized repository to track all the compliance, ethics, HR related questions, comments and concerns is essential for success.  Without that visibility, without that data, you can’t look for trends, make educated decisions on how to mitigate risk, or prepare for the future.  Schools should be taking the same approach to managing their risk.  

I asked a person at Para’s new school if they had a centralized repository for tracking concerns and tips from students, other teachers, parents or concerned citizens.  She looked at me as if I had three heads because she had never heard of what I was talking about.  I don’t fault that person for not knowing, but I do fault the school systems for not opening their eyes to the reality of the world around them and taking a more proactive approach to managing risk.   The goal of a compliance program is to go from reactive to proactive to predictive; this should also be the goal of our schools when it comes to safety. 

One of the many reasons I joined ETHIX360 was because of the leadership’s philosophy of giving back. The same technology we use to help large and small corporations mitigate risk is also available to schools. We believe we have a responsibility to turn our success in the world of corporate compliance into an opportunity to help schools create a safe learning environment. 

With Para starting school in just six short months, it does give me a little piece of mind knowing that that technology exists to help make our schools safer; now, if we could just get more schools to use it.

Stephanie is a seasoned ethics and compliance (E&C) professional. She has earned an MA in both Business and Professional and Applied Ethics and is a graduate of The Ethics & Compliance Initiative Managing Ethics in an Organization Program. Prior to and during her E&C career, Stephanie served in the United States Marine Corps Reserves and the North Carolina Air National Guard.