5 Minute Read
Kevin Eberle, EdD
Former Buffalo Public Schools PrincipalSee Bio
Publish dateMay 4, 2023
Open most U.S. newspapers or watch a news program today and you’re likely to see a story about a recent shooting or the impact of gun violence. Adding commentary to these stories and writing op/eds on ways to stop gun violence in schools are several self-proclaimed school safety and security experts. With armchair analysis and elementary advice, these “experts” capitalize on tragedies and fear while promoting their consulting services. Caveat emptor.
In our mission to make the world a safer place for people to gather, we believe it’s important to offer guidance when reading third party opinions on how to reduce the threat of gun violence in schools. We spoke with Kevin Eberle, EdD, retired school principal and Evolv advisor about how to evaluate a school security advisor and actionable ways that schools can reduce the threat of gun violence.
Three Ways to Assess the Qualifications of a School Safety Expert
When listening to a safety expert or reading their articles and reports, consider the following three criteria to fairly assess their qualifications.
1. Qualify the source
Does the expert have a background in education, safety and security? While everybody has attended school, this doesn’t make everybody an expert in increasing school safety. Further, while many people have expertise in security, it’s a vast, fast-moving and growing area with many facets and technologies to learn and master. The veracity of an article or expert commentary should be based on the author’s or researcher’s experience in education, safety and security.
I make this recommendation as a former police officer, teacher, and school principal with a doctorate in education. Additionally, I have been trained in emergency response and tactical maneuvers, completed training with the Secret Service and FBI in Sniper School/Dignitary Protection and was a former member of the Special Weapons and Tactical Team (SWAT) team.
Based on my credentials, I can confidently say that when it comes to taking the advice of an “expert,” carefully consider how much knowledge and real world experience they have in school safety from a holistic point of view. Additionally, challenge the expert to provide specific examples of how they handled a lockdown, worked with local law enforcement, applied social/emotional learning to the development of students, de-escalated a fight in a classroom, and/or supported the parents and community after the unfortunate loss of students due to violence that happened outside of a school building. It’s one thing to talk about what you would or should do in an emergency and it’s quite another to share genuine examples of how crises were handled and averted.
2. Assess the tone and merit of the advice.
Are the opinions and reports written as clickbait, with catchy headlines and obvious advice, or are they based on actual research. A lot of posts and listicles that focus on school safety highlight recent tragedies and provide elementary recommendations for improving safety.
For example, suggesting teachers strengthen relationships with students overly simplifies how to address the rise in gun violence in America. Also, advising educators, parents and communities work more closely together and practice safety drills is not an original idea. These actions have long been part of every school’s safety plan. When you read those articles, look for fresh advice that is actionable and realistic.
Lastly, be weary of “experts” who only seek to point out flaws to efforts schools are making to increase safety plans without offering viable, alternative solutions. Ask them: What is your suggested solution to this epidemic we are facing in schools?
3. Question why the advice calls out a single technology solution instead of a holistic approach to safety, or uses the term “security theater".
We all know that Americans, especially educators, are feeling increased anxiety about gun violence. Evolv’s recent survey on the topic found an increase in the number of Americans (36%) that believe they, or someone they love, are extremely likely to encounter an active shooter in their lifetime. When it comes to educators, that number jumps to 51%.
Given the increased anxiety, you can understand why a term like “security theater” to describe weapons detection screening systems may upset parents and educators. The term may attract readers, but it’s counterproductive to school safety. Let’s unpack “security theater” and provide context for it with regard to weapons detection screening systems in schools.
Security theater is a term that is bandied to argue that weapons detection screening systems offer a feeling of security, yet are ineffective in preventing weapons from entering areas where they should not be. Along with inciting fear, it’s also being used to provoke weapons screening technologies companies like Evolv to disclose trade secrets that, in the wrong hands, can put the public’s safety at risk.
Having worked closely with Evolv and gaining a deep understanding of its patented technology, I can attest that the systems are not security theater. In fact, in 2022, Evolv detected and stopped over 176,000 weapons from entering places where people gather. The reality is no security system is 100%.
What’s also important to note is that every school has its own, distinct security needs and chooses the sensitivity setting that is right for their student body. Evolv works closely with key stakeholders to communicate all aspects of its systems, including limitations and capabilities, without publicly sharing a blueprint that a bad actor could use to do harm. Those responsible for keeping schools safe realize the importance of keeping this information confidential. It’s a common best practice in the security industry, notably the TSA, where sensitive information is carefully guarded to keep the public safe.
Kevin Eberle, EdD
Former Buffalo Public Schools Principal
Kevin Eberle, EdD, is an Education and School Safety Consultant for Evolv Technology. He has spent over 30 years as an educator, serving much of his time as a Principal in K-12. His multiple decades of educator experience has given him invaluable insight into school structure, emergency planning, and critical/situational response. Prior to his career in education, Kevin spent over seven years as a Police Officer and Academy Instructor for the Hampton Police Department. Kevin holds an Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice from Hilbert College, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Criminology from Saint Leo University, a MS in Counselor Education and Guidance Services from Canisius, and a Doctor of Education from the University of Buffalo.See Bio