Don Shomette

People are the Prize

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Tag Goes to the Runner

In baseball, if you’re not 100% certain that the runner is out you give the benefit of the doubt to the runner,  The phrase is, ‘Tag goes to the runner’ and it’s a good concept that is as old as baseball.

We should apply the same standard to kids.

If you have a student who is talking about being the next Michael Jordan or Bill Gates or whatever, and you think it’s impossible or even just highly unlikely, keep it to yourself. Thank goodness that most adults won’t shut the kid down with something as harsh as, “Ain’t never gonna happen.” but too many send a softer sounding yet similar message when we pound the young person with doubt after doubt.

What do I mean?

We say things like, “Sweetheart, not everyone is made to play basketball,” or “You’re not that good with computers.”

Please don’t do that. We have a nasty habit in America of fixating on the negative. Let the kid dream and encourage him or her to go for it. Unless you are 100% certain and without a single doubt that the kid can’t do it then keep it to yourself and instead think of baseball.

Tag always goes to the runner.

Dreaming and failing is not the worst thing in life. Having a dream and never trying still isn’t’ the worst thing. Having a dream and being shot down by the ones you trust is the worst.

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Review & Discussion (What Do You See Wednesday? 19 March 2014)

Let’s review and discuss the picture from What Do You See Wednesday? (19 March 2014)

Here’s the background:

Today’s picture is from another high school with severe security concerns. Every student that enters the school must walk through one of the two metal detectors and then have their backpack run through the X-ray machine. When you comment on this picture, do so as if you are a security officer and you are working this spot during student arrival.  What do you see from the eyes of the security officer?

Here’s the picture:

Here are my thoughts:

We talk a lot about the safety of the students and the staff members, but today I want to talk about the safety of our security personnel. The current setup is unsafe for the security officers. They have no space and distance between them and a potential threat and therefore no time to react first. Remember, this school feels the risk is high enough to have every student pass through a metal detector and to have their book bags x-rayed. That alone, should have the security officers take additional precautions.

What do I mean?

Increase The Space:
While it is good that only one door is being used, the officers have given themselves no time to react first. Imagine you’re a security officer and you’re standing there watching students stream in and suddenly the alarm goes off. How long have you been able to observe the student who set off the alarm? Maybe five seconds at the most? That is not long enough. We want to increase the time we are able to observe and assess those before they enter our area. The best way to do that is to…

Increase The Distance:
If I couldn’t move the metal detectors backwards and gain distance that way, I’d post an officer in the hall but place him in a spot where he was still visible from the doorway (typically there are at least three security officers manning an area like this and if I was an officer standing inside, I’d want to be able to see the officer outside in the hall).

Next, I’d create a lane in the hall and make all the students form in a line out there, before they get near the metal detector. The officer in the hall would have the job of observing and assessing. Does anyone look nervous? Anyone carrying something bulky? Anyone showing other signs of potential danger?

The officer in the hall would also have the job of spacing out the students. That is, not letting them bunch up around the metal detector but instead ensuring that they enter one at a time—nice and slow and at our pace. If the alarm goes off we want as few students in the immediate area as possible and we want a clear path to immediately address the situation.

We see it again and again that we can solve or lessen so many problems just by tweaking the environment to make it work for us. In everything we do, we want to increase the space and distance between ourselves and a potential threat. It is always in our benefit to be the one to act first.

When we do, we stand a better chance of influencing the outcome.


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What Do You See Wednesday? (26 March 2014)

Check out the comments to read what others have seen!

Being able to spot what is safe and unsafe takes practice. And experience is invaluable. We’re going to post a new picture each Wednesday and after everyone has had a chance to comment, we’ll review and discuss the findings.

Today’s pictures are from a real live issue happening at a local school. Those using the Park & Ride are entering the school to use the bathrooms and to charge cell phones while waiting for rides to pick them up or after they have been dropped off.  Recently, there was even a ‘take down’ at the Park & Ride by federal agents which was witnessed by the school.

For a more detailed explanation, read the following story.

From the three pictures below, you can see that the school is very close to the Park & Ride.  What do you see and what would you do to address this issue?

Standing inside the Park & Ride and in the distance the school is visible.

Sign posted at the exit of the Park & Ride

Sign posted on school property and in the path of those walking from the Park & Ride towards the school.


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The Real Fear Behind Violent Video Games

There continues to be articles written by concerned people (some very influential) blaming violent video games for the cause of teen violence and the increase of school attacks starting in the 1990’s. I understand why this connection is proposed, but violent video games do not make people murder or commit a school attack.

How do we know?

Because 40 million people play the first person shooter game Call of Duty II and 40 million people do not then go out and murder anyone or attack our schools. If the game was to blame, we’d see an epidemic of murder and school attacks occurring every day in America.


For the record, this is not a plug for or an argument against violent video games. This is a warning not to get sidetracked and attach too much importance to a teen playing a violent video game.

What do I mean?

A teen playing Call of Duty does not mean they are a threat to attack our schools. If you have this type of perspective, you’re going to be expending too much energy and resources watching 50-60% (or higher) of the male students in your school for no reason. The teens we have to really watch are the ones who play the violent games and are obsessed with the violence. It’s not that they just like the graphics and the cool uniforms, but that they love the violence. They are obsessed with the violence. That’s the real fear.That they only play it for the violence.

These are the teens that are using the game to meet their need for experiencing, seeing, and participating with violence. Eric Harris, Columbine murderer, played Doom because he loved and needed the violence. He even created his own Doom levels so he could craft the violence to his own specifics. Doom didn’t make him murder—he used Doom to release his obsession with murder. Much in the same way that Andrew Golden, 11 year old Westside Middle School murderer, massacred animals to meet his. It’s not the game or the method per se, it’s the intent behind the behavior.

That’s what we have to focus on—what are they getting out of it?


If you find yourself with a student who has made a threat, and you’re concerned about whether the student poses a risk, one indicator may be if he plays violent video games. But don’t automatically assume that it raises the threat level. Instead, figure out exactly what it means to the student and why he plays it. Knowing his true intent will give you a much clearer view as to the real risk he poses.

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Dog Mauls 4 Year Old and Lawyers Up

About a month ago, four year old Kevin Vicente wandered into his neighbor’s yard and tried to take the bone from Mickey, a five year old pit bull that was chained to his dog house.  Mickey attacked and mauled Kevin, putting him in the hospital with catastrophic injuries.  It is amazing that Kevin survived.

Mickey was turned over to local police by his owners and a hearing is scheduled for 25 March to determine if Mickey should be put down.

mickeyOne would think that this would be an open and shut case, except that 45,000 people have signed a petition to release Mickey and have donated $6,500 to help in the dog’s legal defense (more money than has been raised for Kevin).  Many are calling for mercy for the dog and his lawyer has said that Mickey should not be put down because it will accomplish nothing but to kill, “A poor innocent dog.”

He is partially correct.

The dog is innocent.  An animal can never be put on trial because it cannot commit a crime.  The owners of the animal can have a lawyer, but not the animal itself.  So to have a lawyer and a court date for a dog is ludicrous and as a prior police officer I find it personally offensive.  This is not the law that I sacrificed and risked my life to uphold.  Anyway, for a crime to take place there must be a victim and the suspect must know that his actions are wrong. The victim in this case is clearly Kevin.  The dog however, is incapable of knowing right from wrong because in the animal world there is no right or wrong.  And no, the dog was not just acting on instincts. It was something more, a lot more.

This is what I mean.

What separates us from the animals is that animals are incapable of giving mercy.  We see this played out all the time on the Animal Channel.  The sweet little baby antelope with big beautiful brown eyes wanders down to the stream and gently laps at the water, completely unaware of the lion lurking nearby in the tall grass.  Then suddenly and without any provocation, the lion leaps and snatches the innocently antelope and delivers a killing bite.  All the antelope can do is moan one last cry of pain.


This scene turns our stomachs because as humans we deeply value mercy.  While we feel terribly sorry for the antelope, the lion sees absolutely nothing wrong in this because there is no expectation of mercy in the animal world.  This is why when a human murders an innocent person, especially a child we call him an animal.  “You’re an animal!” Saying this doesn’t mean that we think poorly of animals, but that we understand that animals do not show mercy and that humans are supposed to.  After all, mercy is love’s second name.

Now, why would a guy who makes schools safer write a blog about something like this?

Because I am in the mercy business.  I teach people how to do threat assessments and at the heart of a great threat assessment is mercy.  Image that a person is in a deep, dark hole and is incapable of getting out of it on his own.  True mercy is not simply throwing a ladder down and telling the person to climb out, but climbing down into the hole with the person and helping him to climb out of the hole.

In human threat assessments, we must climb down into the hole with the person (especially if it’s a young person) and help him to climb out of that hole.  For the record, we are not simply deciding if the person is a threat but also creating a plan to intervene, stabilize, and manage the threat so that everyone is safe in the short and long term.  This is our greatest chance of saving lives—including the person we are assessing.  We can arrest him and that might be the best short term solution, but it won’t stop the person from wanting to hurt us.  The only way to do that is to meet whatever need the person has that he or she believes will be obtained through violence.  This is what makes threat assessments so difficult–because we have to try to understand exactly what the person is thinking, feeling, and what is motivating the behavior.

Now, back to what the lawyer said about killing Mickey not accomplishing anything.  It is true that Mickey is innocent so therefore he should not be punished as if he’s committed a crime.  And extending mercy to Mickey is not the answer.  We show mercy to those who have done bad things because we hope that in doing so they will change, become more human, show mercy to others and will no longer be a threat to us.  No amount of mercy will change Mickey or make us safer.

In threat assessments we don’t go on feelings and opinions but facts and observed behaviors that warn of future violence.  Mickey has already killed a small dog and mauled a 4 year old boy to near death.  This cannot be ignored.  Mickey is a threat and removing him to a farm (like arresting a person and putting him in jail) will not stop Mickey from being a threat to other animals or children.  The entire situation is terribly unfortunate and sad, but we cannot change Mickey’ nature so therefore we have no other choice but to put him down which will accomplish one crucial thing—it will make us safer.

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What Do You See Wednesday? (19 March 2014)

Check out the comments to read what others have seen!

Being able to spot what is safe and unsafe takes practice. And experience is invaluable. We’re going to post a new picture each Wednesday and after everyone has had a chance to comment, we’ll review and discuss the findings.

Today’s picture is from another high school with severe security concerns.  Every student that enters the school must walk through one of the two metal detectors and then have their backpack run through the X-ray machine. When you comment on this picture, do so as if you are a security officer and you are working this spot during student arrival.

What do you see–from the eyes of a security officer?


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What Do You See Wednesday (Review & Discussion) 12 March 2014

Let’s review and discuss the last, ‘What Do You See Wednesday’ from 12 March 2014.

Here’s the picture


I posted this picture because I wanted to talk about the stairs and give some tips for making them a little bit safer.

Designated directions.
This school has designated an ‘up’ and ‘down’ side for the students. Besides the arrows indicating which way the student is supposed to travel, there is also a metal rail that physically divides the two sides. This is a great way to reduce space conflict. Meaning, students that are using the space to walk down the stairs will not be in conflict with students using the stairs to walk up or…one gaggle of students cannot run into another gaggle.

For the schools that do not have a dividing rail to physically separate the two sides some have painted arrows on the walls and even stripes on the floor to help control movement.

Remember, this school had serious safety concerns and needed a dozen security officers to maintain control. Separating the students and making them all move in one direction helped a great deal to reduce fighting in the stairwells.

Shut it down.
Another technique is to shut down a specific stairwell to student movement. Don’t lock the doors, but just close the stairwell down so students cannot use them unless it’s an emergency. This is a great technique for limiting student access to spots that are difficult to observe, high risk areas where trouble seems to always occur, or if manpower is low and you’re spread too thin to cover everywhere.

Teachers should still use the stairwell to ensure that it is not being used as a spot for students to hide or to do bad things.

Own it.
Stairwells are often ignored because no one really owns them. Identify the adults that are near the stairwells and ask, plead, and or assign them to help own the stairwell. I would assign several adults to one stairwell and have them take turns supervising the space. Someone must watch them during class change and occasionally search them for indicators of violence or other unwanted behaviors.

Most schools only have a few stairwells and they don’t have severe safety issues.  With a good plan and a coordinated response you can enjoy an immediate improvement with a little bit of effort.  For schools that ignore their stairwells, they can and will cause a terrible amount of heartache for such a little space.