I recently delivered back-to-back 90-minute lectures to three groups of New York City high school teachers on preventing violence from erupting in their classrooms. Amazed at the statistics regarding the size of the damage awards that have been paid out by the city arising out of negligent security claims against its public schools, the groups began to perceive the nature of the problem from a new perspective: that of a litigant.
Decades ago, I attended the funeral for six-year-old Adam Walsh, who had been abducted from a Florida department store while his mother was shopping close by. The case remains an open homicide in Hollywood, FL, almost 23 years, later despite the efforts of Adam’s father, television personality, John Walsh (“America’s Most Wanted”) to have his son’s killer brought to justice.
In America’s major cities, public school buildings are regularly protected by detachments of school “police.” In New York City, the school security personnel are in fact employed and trained by the New York City Police Department’s School Safety Division under the command of an Assistant Chief Inspector. In Brooklyn, the District Attorney has set aside scarce resources to establish the School Advocacy Bureau, which is dedicated to dealing with the issue of school crime, and finding ways to work with the New York City Department of Education to combat school violence.
Now that the media interested in evaluating airport security six months after 9/11 been heard from, the consensus is that screening personnel will make or break an airport’s security program. In reports from the New York Times, MSNBC, and even a special prepared by the Arts and Entertainment channel, praise and criticism of airport security programs is focused on the personnel who each day must process approximately two million airline passengers at America’s 429 commercial airports. And while the new security technologies being developed every day haven’t, for the most part, gone beyond the testing stage, they too will succeed or fail in improving the quality of airport security based upon how well screening and other security personnel use them.