Discovering the Awesomeness of Multiplayer Video Games – Interview with Seann Dikkers, PhD – SDP #18

[podcast] In 2011, 97% of youth in American played some type of video game each week!  Gaming is trending across all generations with millions of people “running into” the world of video games – including the young as well as the elderly. Video games, for example, are being used in senior care homes to refresh memory, build hand-eye coordination and foster social interaction through games of Wii Bowling.


Dr. Dikkers regards video gaming the same as other media such as movies and music.  It has become part of our society and just like heavy metal music, is not the causal factor of violent behaviors.  In fact, as game play increases violent behaviors decrease.  Seann examines digital game design and teaching and learning.  What can we learn from video games to provide a meaningful experience in classrooms? 


Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do is a book by Dr. Lawrence Kutner & Dr. Cheryl K. Olson.  In it, they draw various conclusions that run contrary to the rhetoric of some politicians and activists. Along with psychiatrist Eugene V. Beresin, M.D., Kutner and Olson are co-directors of the Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health and Media, a division of the department of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. 



Seann shares that this happens in digital spaces where people gather to do fun things and the human nature is to produce systems within the social group to manage abhorrent behavior of individuals.  This point is underscored by a story Dr. Dikkers shares of playing recess football as a child and the natural emergence of group rules for playing the game.  Some video games allow for other users to ignore players and if a gaming environment becomes toxic, it dissolves and gamers migrate to other game spaces or castaways reinvent themselves through new avatars and identities and re-enter the gaming world with improved etiquette.  Dr. Dikkers adds that there are websites, such as Common Sense Media, that adults can access to obtain reviews of games. 


Seann shared a story of how his own children participated in a gaming social group and felt a strong commitment to be accountable to the group.  If they couldn’t be available to participate in a group game, it was important to them to notify other players so they could plan accordingly for the multi-player activity. 


Seann shares that many games are about ethical decision-making and each decision has an impact on the overall storyline.  This is common among role playing games and those are actually the games that Dr. Dikkers enjoy playing side-by-side with his children so the video game is a medium for a social relationship and discussions about choices and consequences.  He shares that one rule in his household was that playing games must be a family activity.  He also limited weekly time spent gaming for his children and notes that when his children were younger, he had a rule that they wouldn’t do anything in a game that they wouldn’t do in real life. 


Just as when we read books, we don’t run out and do what the characters do.  Dr. Dikkers describes this as psychosocial moratorium, or when a person takes a break from “real life” to actively search for their identity.  He recalls times when people burned comic books for fear that they would inculcate youth to a belief set of acting being the rules of society.  Host Dr. Perrodin adds that as a Wisconsinite, thousands of youth and adults are hunters, but that sport doesn’t make them prone to kill people. 


Dr. Dikkers indicated that this question is the center of current research in gaming in educational setting.  Teachers are learning digital literacy.  To facilitate expansion of teachers’ gaming knowledge base, he urges educators to watch how games are designed, such as World of Warcraft, to look at what roles students are given and what missions they are given.  Lesson plans could follow how game designers capture the attention of children and then build the child’s skills.  Seann shared that schools are able to set up intra-district servers to house games in order to allow students to game with each other, but not with the entire outside world.  He re-iterates that Minecraft is a very popular game to use in schools and can be the medium by which to foster curriculum about math, reading, science, problem solving, etc.



Dr. Dikkers talks of working with schools that now have Minecraft video game accounts for all students.  He notes a public school in Oregon, Wisconsin that focused on teachers learning technology and designing lesson plans integrated with technology.  Teacher training is first and simply not some assumed “acquired competency” that happens after dumping technology into classrooms without teachers knowing how to use it.  There must be a lesson that is connected to the game for it to be meaningful to school curriculum. 


David will respond to discussion thread comments or questions & also to emails.  The Safety Doc Podcast is hosted & produced by David Perrodin, PhD. 


Opinions are those of the host and guests and do not reflect positions of The 405 Media or supporters of “The Safety Doc Podcast”.  The show is curse free and adheres to nondiscrimination principles while seeking to bring forward productive discourse and debate on topics relevant to personal or institutional safety.  

Websites / Resources Discussed During this Podcast

Time to Expel Suspensions – Unpacking the School Discipline Debacle – SDP #17

Student suspension rates continue to drop across the United States.  However, are we observing a genuine decline or the engineered result of creative new categorizing exempt from state and federal reporting? 


Dr. Perrodin cautions listeners that, “I am going to be direct and very blunt with you from an insider perspective telling you what is happening with school suspensions and some of you frankly are not going to like what I have to say…”  Wow – unleashed.  From his experiences as a school administrator, doctoral researcher, industry consultant and school safety expert witness, Dr. Perrodin crafts an argument that school suspension data is grossly flawed and impractical as a metric for school improvement. 


School safety expert Kenneth Trump testified to Congress multiple times over the past 20 years about the serious, chronic inaccuracies in school safety data.  Dr. Perrodin offers an example (below) to support Mr. Trump’s claims by citing a Wisconsin high school of 800 students that reported a total of 4 school suspensions for an entire school year after reporting 71 suspensions the previous year (and shares the data screenshot in the YouTube version of the show).  How is such an astounding figure achieved?  At best, it was a mistaken entry that evaded data scrubbers with as much ease as stepping over a crack in a sidewalk.  Yet, the situation is probably much darker and intentional than mere sloppy digit entry.  In fact, the overall decreasing trend in school suspensions is not a representation that student behavior is correspondingly improving! 



breakfast-clubSuspensions have been replaced by abeyance agreements and pre-expulsion agreements.  Such measures, often thick with “legalese” and the coercive positionality of district’s brass and legal counsel, are basically “suspended” sentences that operate in a matrix where the benevolent-appearing school holds massive power over the parent and student to “go along with the deal or gamble the creaky plank of expulsion.”  It’s a camouflaged suspension. 


It’s simple.  First, suspensions have never been a quality tool to improve student behavior.  Teach the student a lesson instead of teaching the student the lesson.  And, the suspension is a reprieve for the school from the student.  Remember, I said I was going to candid.  Also, suspension data is a dark cloud – it’s a black mark on the school.  In an era of free-agency for students, a district with low suspension numbers is more appealing than a district with high(er) suspension numbers.  Lose kids and lose funding.  Schools are being identified for disproportionate suspensions of youth per a specific race – and a “fix” to such a problem is to not produce a reportable suspension.  See where I’m going – it’s not a fix, its re-badging terms and allowing persistent achievement gaps between students of different races. 


Inter-rater reliability will forever make it impossible to compare schools and to distill reliable aggregate school discipline data.  But, who cares?  Is this really a problem at all?  If you accept that the school is the unit of measure and that context and situation vary greatly between schools, then you can center improvement on each specific school.  I believe that this is the correct approach to increasing school safety.  In 2015-2016, North Carolina’s state guidance to schools on discipline reporting included 114 behavior options from gambling to fray?  Really?  Just because you can report on something doesn’t mean that you should report on something.   


Dr. Perrodin’s blueprint for improving student discipline and school connectedness focuses on mandatory local and state reporting of front-end connections for students manifesting behavioral concerns to school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, and school or outside agencies that are equipped to meet the innate needs and other needs of the child and family. 


Not really.  The vehicle to craft robust inter-agency collaboration is the hospital-led Community Health Needs Assessment.  Dump suspensions and re-allocate time sucked into that black hole to front-loaded efforts.  Also, restorative discipline practices decrease recidivism in all measures student subgroups – but it’s an intensive up-front investment.  This passionate podcast surfaces Dr. Perrodin’s frustrations with a “smoke and mirrors” game that is largely unchecked at a state or local level and either too confusing or too coercive to be questioned or challenged by parents. 


David will respond to discussion thread comments or questions & also to emails.  The Safety Doc Podcast is hosted & produced by David Perrodin, PhD. 


Opinions are those of the host and guests and do not reflect positions of The 405 Media or supporters of “The Safety Doc Podcast”.  The show is curse free and adheres to nondiscrimination principles while seeking to bring forward productive discourse and debate on topics relevant to personal or institutional safety.

Examining the Patriot Act, Privacy, Freedom & Safety – Interview with Dylan Allman – SDP #16

Mr. Dylan Allman | Free Thinker | Constitutionalist | Liberty | Small Government

Dylan Allman is a rising political scholar alarmed by the growth of government and its invasion into personal privacy as protected by the 4th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. 


During this riveting interview, Mr. Allman challenges the tenets of the Patriot Act, something that host Dr. Perrodin has openly supported for its assumed function of removing barriers to the exchange of threat leakage information between law enforcement agencies.  Dr. Perrodin also believes that government surveillance thwarts countless threats aimed at the American people – things we never read or hear about due to the classified nature of such operations.  Yet, Dr. Perrodin admits that his belief is perhaps a reality created by his own positionality and that such covert operations will never, by function, be transparent to the populace. 


Mr. Allman introduces deeper skepticism to the conversation, implying that Dr. Perrodin seek to better inform his position about the value that the NSA, and like, organizations that might not authentically contribute to safety.  Both Mr. Allman and Dr. Perrodin find themselves questioning the purpose of the Patriot Act as peaceful protests, from streets to college campuses, are rapidly eroding into riots between persons subscribed to “The Left” or “The Right” – a pattern that seemingly would be suppressed by the knowledge skimmed by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other covert government organizations purposed with identifying and stopping terrorism. 


Has the mass media purposely saturated Americans with feelings of fear and insecurity and have we become so distanced from the constructs of the Founding Fathers that the Constitution has taken a backseat to Executive Orders? 


Ultimately, this earnest discussion positions personal safety in the capable hands of the people and beckons all listeners to not only preserve the remnants of their rights, but to restore the rights granted to the states, localities and citizens by the Founding Fathers. 


Both men embrace the non-aggression principle and liberty via the ballot and not the bullet.  


You can also listen to this podcast on SoundCloud or on The 405 Media  You can view this episode on YouTube  FOLLOW DR. PERRODIN: On Twitter @SafetyPhD and subscribe to “The Safety Doc” YouTube channel and SoundCloud RSS feed. DR. PERRODIN’S SAFETY BLOG: SAFETY DOC WEBSITE: David will respond to discussion thread comments or questions & also to emails.  The Safety Doc Podcast is hosted & produced by David Perrodin, PhD.  Follow Dylan Allman on Twitter @realDylanAllman 

ENDORSEMENTS. Opinions are those of the host and guests and do not reflect positions of The 405 Media or supporters of “The Safety Doc Podcast”.  The show is curse free and adheres to nondiscrimination principles while seeking to bring forward productive discourse and debate on topics relevant to personal or institutional safety.

PLEASE SUBSCRIBE to this BLOG and to “The Safety Doc Podcast” on YouTube – new episodes posted each week!  The truth will keep you safe!

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A Blind Man’s Amazing Stories about Personal Safety – Interview with David Hyde – SDP #15

FACT:  David Hyde (left) Bench-Pressed His Guide Dog Out of a Window During A Fire Drill at a Prison.  David Worked at the Prison and the Dog Was Safe on the Fire Escape.

When David Hyde was a boy, his mother stuffed a sock to shape it into a ball and then set him forth to play and learn with his sighted peers. He is appreciative for the curious antics and experiences of his formative years, including roller skating down a hill while dodging people in his path, and reflects upon that stage as a time when he learned to assess and safely, or with informed risk, negotiate his environment.


David explains the concept of “talking signposts” and how they are used to orient and direct people that are blind as they travel through a busy location, such as the lobby of a convention center. Curiously, such approaches are rarely considered during crisis situations, like evacuating a burning building. In fact, the mere sound of alarms or horns can be disorienting, per David, as he interjected a casual apology to a friend that honked and waved at him several times in the past.


Of the many engaging stories shared by David, his recollection of being told to harbor in a stairwell during a fire drill evacuation set the groundwork for an interview theme of a redundant the collective public’s under-estimating of the capabilities of a blind person – and yes, David began the interview by stating he was fully comfortable with being referred to as a “blind man” – as the disability was not a definition of him, but merely a description of a characteristic about him.


OK, David laughed at this story – so it’s OK to chuckle as all’s well that ends well. Working some years as a door-to-door insurance salesman, David points to the importance of portraying confidence and strategies he used to increase his personal safety in unfamiliar territory. Still, he borrows a story about a blind salesman that was exploited to humor others as he painstakingly awaited a potentially lucrative reply from the grand patriarch of a large family.


No, it’s not due to funding, although a trained guide dog represents an investment of at least $30,000 ( not including food and care). David explains the reason to center on the need to first become proficient at white cane use and orientation and mobility. As he stated, a guide dog would not lead you through town to a convenience store – you just don’t follow it, you command it.


As the poignant, often-humorous, stories map the intersections of blindness, safety and humanity, David’s words are threaded with introspection from a life of marked accomplishments, although humbly stated, such as creating statewide professional development programs from scratch or serving in essential roles on national organizations (not to mention the countless positive influences on colleagues and students).


His parting advice for sighted people is to ask a blind person if he or she wants assistance in crossing a street or perhaps in some other situation. David is aware that people are expressing goodwill and are genuine in offers to help, but at the same time, he feels the stereotype of judged to be incapable because he has does not have sight. Nonetheless, David’s unlikely to turn down your offer to help him shovel his walkway following a robust Wisconsin snowstorm! This show is captivating and educational while also bringing to consideration one’s own beliefs and assumptions. The stories from this blind man will enable you to see a bit further over your own horizon. David Hyde can be contacted via email at


You can also listen to this podcast on or on The 405 Media You can view this episode on YouTube FOLLOW DR. PERRODIN: On Twitter @SafetyPhD and subscribe to “The Safety Doc Podcast” YouTube channel and SoundCloud RSS feed. DR. PERRODIN’S SAFETY BLOG: SAFETY DOC WEBSITE: David will respond to discussion thread comments or questions & also to emails. The Safety Doc Podcast is hosted & produced by David Perrodin, PhD.  

ENDORSEMENTS. Opinions are those of the host and guests and do not reflect positions of The 405 Media or supporters of “The Safety Doc Podcast”.  The show is curse free and adheres to nondiscrimination principles while seeking to bring forward productive discourse and debate on topics relevant to personal or institutional safety.

PLEASE SUBSCRIBE to this BLOG and to “The Safety Doc Podcast” on YouTube – new episodes posted each week!  The truth will keep you safe!

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Repeal Gun-Free Schools Zones, Patriot Act Advantages & Vaccine for Mental Illness??? – SDP #11

pinnochioI center this narrative on analyzing three recent school safety mass media articles to reveal how sensationalized headings fail to match the content of the articles, thus creating a disservice to readers and further eroding public trust in the mainstream media’s ability to accurately report safety news. I identify the authors’ biases and specifically expose their attempts to deploy fear narratives to persuade the public toward accepting rhetoric that schools are in a default status of “unsafe” and the antidotes are in the forms of legislation, obscure software or genetically modifying humans to be stress-resistant flesh machines shielded from the horrors of trauma.

HEADLINE #1: Representative Massive (R-Ky.) Wants to Repeal Gun-Free School Zones Act by Brian Doherty [] (January 5, 2017).

“Gun-Free School Zones” signs grow in the boulevards of every school in America. Invasive – and impervious to weed wackers! They’ve been stoutly rooted since 1990. The article states (per quote from Rep. Massie): “Gun-free school zones are ineffective.” Yeah, I agree. Everyone agrees. The bill doesn’t deter school shooters, much like a non-smoking sign won’t discourage an arsonist. The bill was a paper tiger and it’s not like we don’t have laws against committing homicide. So yes, by all means, trash the GFSZA! However, Rep. Massie goes on to make a statement that simply isn’t true. “They [GFSZA] make people less safe by inviting criminals into target rich, no-risk environments and prevent law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves, and create vulnerable populations that are targeted by criminals.” Yikes. No, Rep. Massie. Repealing the bill won’t be like Gotham welcoming back Batman. Nothing will change except it will be easier to mow the school boulevard.

HEADLINE #2: D.C. online watchdog group spots Wisconsin school threat on Twitter by Savanna Tomei [WKOW 27] (January 14, 2017).

This is a terrific example of an advertisement pretending to be an article. You’ll be amazed at what I uncovered after exploring “The Tactical Institute” website – the self-funded “group” (schools must pay for its services) that, per its website “monitors the entire Web for threats to our clients”, including something referred to as “The Dark Web” which apparently is so secretive that is undetectable by search engines. FYI – “Dark” is a persuasion word – it is intended to frighten you. Per its website, TI appears to have a knack for facilitating inter-agency networking – even though, as I clarify, such provisions are already provided to law enforcement agencies via the ‘The USA PATRIOT ACT’ (which I talk about).

HEADLINE #3: Preventing Mental Illness With a Stress Vaccine by Danielle Elliot [The Atlantic] (November 26, 2016).

The headline’s claim is absurd and a complete mismatch from the article which unfortunately bends immune system research being conducted, in part, by Dr. Rebecca Brachman. Dr. Brachman was a student at Columbine High School during the infamous 1999 shooting. She has devoted her life toward better understanding stress, the immune system and mental health. The deductions penned by the article’s author are beyond sensationalism – they are hurtful to persons suffering from PTSD, such as rescue workers and soldiers, as it is implied that one day a simple vaccine will create an “ideal world” where people would be immune from debilitating trauma-induced mental health conditions. Did I mention that current clinical trials involve 12 mice?


I will respond to discussion thread comments or questions & also to emails.

Four BIG Problems Arise When “Advisory” Groups Dictate School Safety Protocols – SDP #10

davis_eb2_metSchools are very collaborative organizations and seek to represent the contexts in which they are rooted. However, school leaders must maintain the distinct purpose of advisory groups as informing those that make decisions and not allow such groups to transform into a small group model which develops protocols and policies that are then vetted by school leaders and school boards.  This over-stepping of “advisory” groups can have devastating consequences when applied to school safety practices.  My purpose is to help you to understand the differences between an advisory group and small group model – knowledge that acquires a heightened relevance when a school contemplates its own potential response to a high-profile safety event, such as the Sandy Hook massacre.

Listen to this podcast live M-R at 9PM PST on


Per Dougherty (2012) “The small group model recognizes that many decisions are made by neither individuals nor organizations, but by small groups convened for a specific purpose” An example of a single project that would entail convening a small team of “experts” could be the emergence of a highly contagious pandemic in the United States.  In this scenario, imagine that the world is scoured for the top minds in areas such as: medical scientists; logistics – distribution; transportation / Infrastructure; communication; manufacturing; & military.  Experts would be brought together assuming the composite group gels and functions to flexibly work together and call upon other resources in order to achieve the target.

Subgroups that would inform these experts might include global information integration specialists (GIS) who could feed population data to the experts such as population densities, locations and types of medical facilities, etc. Envision the “main” small group of consisting of 15-20 experts.  It is essential to keep the group “small” in order to maintain a sharp focus on the target – halting the spread of the virus.  The group should have a facilitator(s) to calibrate, and re-calibrate discussions toward the target and remove and replace group members that are not effectively contributing to the process either through personality conflicts or insufficient skill set.


Dougherty added: “One of the main dangers inherent in the social influences associated with small groups is the tendency toward GROUPTHINK that results from strong internal pressure placed on individual members to conform to the evolving group norm. Several problematic issues can arise from a non-cohesive group of experts faced with working together to address a high-stakes, time-urgent sentinel event.

  1. Viable options might be discarded for “popular” options.

  2. No guarantee that group members will congeal into a functional unit.

  3. No guarantee of magical EMERGENT PROPERTIES – “have to re-deal the hand until you get the right cards and this will take courage as egos will be bruised”.

  4. Groups might simply be expected to work on their own and determine a division of labor. This is a flawed, but not uncommon approach. Specific to schools – when school planning is conducted by a third-party, administrators are better positioned to contribute and reflect versus making sure that everyone else has an opportunity to offer input.


Russell Ackoff (1919-2009) was a pioneering organizational theorist and a systems thinker who has inspired me in many ways. In his days, Russell Ackoff would often demonstrate systems thinking with an example about building an automobile. The story would go something like this: Suppose you’re building the best automobile in the world. You would go about it by first bringing each of all the car models in the world to one place. You would then hire the best automobile engineers and mechanics in the world and ask them to determine which of the cars has the best engine. If the engineers say that the Rolls-Royce has the best engine, you would pick the Rolls-Royce engine for your car. Similarly, you would ask your engineers to find out which of the cars has the best exhaust system and pick that for your future car. Using this method, you and your team would go through the necessary parts for building an automobile and in the end have a list of the best parts available in the world. You would then give the list to your engineers and mechanics and ask them to assemble the car.

What do you think you will get? The answer is obvious: you don’t even get an automobile! The parts won’t simply fit together. An engine from a Rolls-Royce won’t work well with an exhaust system from a Mercedes. The performance of the automobile is dependent on the interaction of its parts, not on the performance of the parts taken separately.


Advisory Groups should be advisory and that point made clear from the start. A cursory Internet search reveals that many schools host community “Input” sessions to help craft the school’s response to safety events.


School safety decisions remain in the hands of the school administrators (and experts accessed by administration) and the school board. Community sessions that craft practice are a great way for school boards and administrators to diffuse responsibility – you see this with schools that tend to have all decision made by group consensus. (In this sense, such practices have appeal to administrators and boards). Administrative discretion must be enabled for the response to any safety situation. Make clear that CONTEXT and SITUATION will dictate the response. SCHOOL SAFETY is too technical and life or death to make protocols per consensus of 500 people attending an “input session” in an auditorium. You are not talking about changing a school calendar to year-round schooling. Again, life or death.


Avoid the pressure to place “alerting parents” at the top of your response tree as the last thing you need is to have parents flood the scene and you have to manage your own staff, facility & responders.


(1) You have not assembled a group of diverse experts – but rather a group of mostly parents.  Most school safety knowledge of members of advisory groups is distilled from the biased mass media.

(2) Groups tend toward “group think” and also toward diffused responsibility.

(3) Advisory groups will be reactive to media hysteria and also advocate for “visible” fortifications. These folks won’t be reading the 277-page “Final Report of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission” released more than 2 years after the massacre.  That document suggested an agenda for school safety planning that was guarded about an over-emphasis on site fortification.   At the time of the massacre, Sandy Hook Elementary was probably as “stout and prepared” for an intruder as any school in the country – one could even argue that it was ahead of many schools with its regular intruder lockdown drills.

(4) An advisory group is only partially informed of school operations and for that reason would be unable to develop a coherent plan that accounts for the various school systems, such as technology and transportation.


(1) Schools should always be reviewing safety practices and such board policies should also have a scheduled review cycle.

(2) We were only provided the media perspective of the Sandy Hook massacre, which is dramatic as much as it is incomplete. The complete report on the Sandy Hook massacre, all 277-pages, was not released until March 6, 2015. (The Sandy hook massacre occurred on December 14, 2012).

(3) Parents will demand that you “harden” the target. Fortification of schools and armed security is visible. Such measures are deterrents, to a point… Attackers will often shift the attack to a weaker access point. For example, an aerial photo of Sandy Hook Elementary School showed that Adam Lanza could have driven his vehicle onto the playground with relative ease.

(4) Most sentinel events, such as Sandy Hook, reveal undetected, unreported or un-acted-upon leakage days, weeks or months prior to the actual attack. Hence, if you are going to install bullet-resistant glass in your school entrance, don’t overlook the accessibility and functionality of your school’s threat input system. Believe it or not, many schools still rely on “tell an adult” as the primary way to report a threat.

By the way, it’s a smart decision for schools to provide parents with information about how to talk to their child about the frightening, invasive mass and social media coverage of Sandy-Hook-level events.  Free resources are available at Parents Guide to Helping Kids Cope with Terrorism


Dougherty, K.  (2014). Military Decision-Making Processes. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.


Three Spectacular In-The-Moment High-Stakes Decisions that Saved Lives – SDP#9


Lessons of Lower Manhattan

A Contrarian’s Perspective of the Unconventional, Exceptional Rescue of 500,000 People

By David Perrodin, PhD

Submitted for publication in School Business Affairs, February, 2017

Listen to this podcast live M-R at 9PM PST on

Anything You Want and Not Everything You Want

I worked with a school business manager who regularly reminded administrators and school board members that he could do anything that they wanted and not everything that they wanted.  His moniker was especially relevant amongst the cyclonic opinions that school safety must center expensive fortifications.

Regrettably, public perception about the issue is strongly influenced by field experts making recommendations often extremely disconnected from what has been revealed by empirical studies of the topic. Hysteria following the Sandy Hook massacre led to 450 school safety state-level legislative bills.  Some bills called for the elimination of windows in schools or arming staff even though such measures were not validated by research findings.  In fact, a large-scale study correlated the positive impact of natural sunlight in schools to students’ academic achievement.

The Colored Perception of School Safety

Business officials should know that investing in school safety has little to do with fancy surveillance cameras, expensive fortifications, thick crisis response binders or gruesome interagency active shooter simulations.

Surveillance is a forensic tool. Do not succumb to the passionate sales pitch that alleged real-time video monitoring of the school by responding squads will pinpoint a swift tactical nullification of the active shooter.  Likewise, fortifications are short-circuited by active shooters who can wait for children to spill across playgrounds.  Reliable locks and sturdy entrance and classroom doors are requisite items, but bullet-resistant glass panes are simply not worth the investment.  Crisis binders are either ignored or irrelevant in crisis situations as the authentic event doesn’t match a scripted contingency.

Interagency drills have become theatrical performances of adults and children “playing dead” in hallways and classrooms, resulting in a growing number of staff and students diagnosed with drill-induced stress disorders. If such a training method was ideal, then why don’t we litter hallways with burnt debris and pump artificial smoke into schools during fire drills?  Does anyone have a barn fan available for the tornado drill?  Beyond treating intruder drills with greater sensationalism than other sentinel events, we tend to overlook that the external people you drill with won’t be the same people responding to an all call of an active shooter at your school – even if that intruder event happens the very next day.

School Safety is Heuristics

School safety is about the process of identifying and maintaining heuristics.  It’s knowing your options and keeping as many options on the table as possible.  In most high-stakes safety situations, responders will be on scene within minutes and the incident command system will default to law enforcement.

Schools need to plan for about 8-minutes [into] any event. That’s it.  Regardless of your plans for offsite re-unification and such, those will all be shaped by the context and situation.  For example, you will have no idea of the perimeter that will be established by law enforcement or potential involvement and access to locations within the perimeter.  These will be fluid decisions.  Allowancing for adaptable decisions affords greater flexibility in responses to a sentinel event.

Distributed Leadership. Up until the past decade or two, we could reliably count on the inculcation of legacy knowledge to staff and students due to the predictable, paced turnover of staff and students. Today, school leaders maintain their posts for a scant 3 year span; teachers leave and enter the profession in droves and student cohort survival rates spiral downward in a transient society.  There’s much fluctuation in the administrative, staff and student rosters of contemporary schools.

I believe that we have crossed a threshold in which the constant churn of principals, teachers and students has brought the theoretical framework of distributed leadership to extinction in some districts and squared to the endangered list in remaining districts.

(James) Spillane (2005) defines leadership as a practice that unfolds among diverse leaders and followers in specific situations. He suggests that leadership is not only shaped by people interacting with one another, but also by certain tools and routines they employ in carrying out their work together (p. 146). Examples of tools of practice include safety flip charts and student assessment rubrics.  Instances of routines of practice include daily “walk-throughs”, weekly collaboration sessions and fire drills.

As found in Spillane and Orlina (2005, pp. 158-159), “Leadership refers to activities tied to core work of the organization that are designed by organization members to influence the motivation, knowledge, affect, and practices of other organizational members or that are understood by organization.”  These tools and routines are core, not peripheral, elements of leadership practice in many school situations.  Given that there appear to be few formal tools and routines of practice employed around leadership practices that prepare schools to be safe from low-incidence episodes of violence, the discretion that leaders use in this area emerges as an area of educational leadership research that is especially of note.  This in-the-moment discretion demarks an evolution from distributed leadership to sensemaking as the desired approach by which to situate school safety decision-making.  Wall-hanging flipcharts are artifacts of an ancient safety world.

Sensemaking.  First, we need to consider (Karl) Weick’s suggestion that in decision-making there is an important intersection between experience and learning.  Weick defines the process by which people give meaning to experience as “sensemaking. Per Weick, Sutcliffe, and Obstfeld (2005):

There are three main attributes of sensemaking. First, sensemaking occurs when a flow of organizational circumstances is turned into words and salient categories.  Second, organizing itself is embodied in written and spoken texts.  Third, reading, writing, conversing, and editing are crucial actions that serve as the media through which the invisible hand of institutions shapes conduct. (p.409)

I have found similar crossroads where people needed to draw from their experience and at the same time be open to doing new things.  This would be vital during an unfolding safety situation to ensure that contextual factors are continually processed and individuals’ responses are adjusted to match their environment—which the sailors in lower Manhattan did so successfully on September 11, 2001.

The Lessons of Lower Manhattan

I believe much can be learned from analyzing the improbable evacuation of Manhattan on September 11, 2001, as documented in the 11-minute film Boat Lift (Rosenstein, 2011).  Specific areas to study include discretion in decision-making, sensemaking, distributed leadership, and highly effective coordinated response without any planning, tools, or practice.  The underlying question is whether we should continue to prepare people to execute rote actions in situations we expect to be unpredictable, chaotic, and dynamic?  Note that this is the standard manner in which educational leaders prepare staff and students for high-stakes school safety situations.

Boatlift documents the maritime evacuation of Lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001—the largest water evacuation in American history.  Five hundred thousand (500,000) people were transported to safety in approximately nine hours by hundreds of vessels that answered a call from U.S. Coast Guard Admiral James Loy for anyone with a boat to assist in the evacuation of Lower Manhattan.  He had no protocols to follow, no flip charts or flow charts.  His instructions were simply for boat operators to assess the situation and do whatever they could safely do to rescue people.  In Loy’s words, “The real reality after I put out some direction was in the hands of commanders and captains who were the respective captains of the port and did what they needed to do, including all the stuff I told them to do and whatever else they felt was appropriate” (Rosenstein, 2011).

Such loose directives, especially in the context of the unprecedented chaos following the attack on the World Trade Center, seem like a guaranteed prescription for monumental failure, and yet the evacuation was accomplished without injuries or fatalities.  So, what were the factors that contributed to the success of this evacuation?

Success Factors

  1. Responders were given permission to exercise discretion.
  2. Responders were not attempting to match responses to scripts.
  3. Responders were effective in sensemaking in the midst of evolving, and uncertain contexts and situations.

Throughout history, the ability to exercise discretion in the best interest of others appears strongest in situations in which the person making the decision feels that the “greater organization” will vindicate the decision. It’s the “I’ve got your back” principle.  This was as apparent in the September 11, 2001 rescue as it was in the April 29-30, 1975 military evacuation of South Vietnamese citizens and American personnel from Saigon.

Code-named Operation Frequent Wind, the speed of the Saigon evacuation and number of people involved created an unforeseen scenario of ships overwhelmed with people and the helicopters that brought them. Some ships struggled to maintain buoyancy.  Orders were given to push surplus helicopters over the sides of the ships to make room for more people.  Some pilots dropped off passengers and then ditched their machines at sea.  Over 7,000 people were evacuated in Operation Frequent Wind.  Commanders that made decisions to plunge aircraft were not reprimanded.  In fact, all personnel who participated in Operation Frequent Wind were authorized the Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, and Humanitarian Service Medal.

Practice Implications

Give Staff Permission to Make Decisions.  At first glance, this might appear to be a ridiculous directive.  One would assume that life preserving actions are primal.  Yet, (1) humans are conditioned to follow directives, and (2) we did not evolve to survive shooting rampages.  There are numerous documented instances of people overlooking near-obvious passages to safety as they awaited a directive from someone perceived to be in a position of authority.  Be overt in communicating the following points to all staff:

  1. Defend because you have the right to protect yourself.
  2. Be aggressive and committed to your actions.
  3. Do not fight fairly. This is about survival.

Balance Interagency Simulations with Less Invasive, Cerebral Tabletop Exercises. A tabletop exercise is a meeting to discuss a simulated emergency situation.  Participants review and discuss the actions they would take in a particular emergency, testing their emergency plan in an informal, low-stress environment.  Tabletop exercises are used to clarify roles and responsibilities and to identify additional mitigation and preparedness needs.

A significant benefit of a tabletop over an authentic full-scale simulation is that the tabletop more efficiently embraces variable interjects.  Hence, several “curve balls” can be introduced to the scenario in response to the real-time decisions of the participants.  For example, a tabletop drill that involves a decision to evacuate students from a school following the discovery of bomb threat could take an interesting twist if the person leading the exercise said, “Students are refusing to leave without their backpacks.”  OK, the drill can pause and participants can discuss options.

Following a completed tabletop drill, the participants should study the granular steps that were taken throughout the drill.  The purpose of reflection is often judged to be evaluative of the decisions.  However, decisions are contextual and situational and should only be assessed within those parameters.  Greater value is found in scrutinizing the heuristics of decision-making.  In other words, what were the available options at the time?  What other options could have been considered?  What was the process for determining the selected option?  Such decision reflection is commonplace to “military games” and readily generalizes to schools conducting tabletop exercises.

Analyses of decision-making in the military points to a specific procedure for understanding why and how decisions were made in a specific context. This popular method, which scrutinizes the process of decision-making, is known as applied decision analysis (ADA). Per Mintz and DeRouen (2010), “Applied decision analysis is an analytic procedure to recreate or ‘reverse engineer’ a particular decision-making process.  It is an effort to ‘enter the minds of decision makers in an attempt to uncover their decision rules’” (p. 80).  ADA is a two-stage process: the first step is to identify the matrix used by the leader, including the alternatives available and also the criteria for decision-making; the second step is to identify the options judged to offer maximized benefits and minimized risks.  ADA is an appropriate tool to study heuristics in decision-making.


The Lower Manhattan rescue taught us that one of the greatest challenges of contingency planning is making sure you don’t plan too much.  Having options offers flexibility and the ability to precisely align responses to developing contexts and situations.


Mintz, A. & DeRouen, K. (2010). Understanding foreign policy decision making. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 73 & 80.

Rosenstein, E. (2011). Boatlift [Motion picture]. United States: Eyepop Productions. Retrieved from

Spillane, J. P., & Orlina, E. C. (2005). Investigating Leadership Practice: Exploring the Entailments of Taking a Distributed Perspective. Leadership & Policy In Schools4(3), 158. doi: 10.1080/15700760500244728

Weick, K., Sutcliffe, K., & Obstfeld, D. (2005). Organizing the Process of Sensemaking. Organizational Science, 16(4), p.409.


Research Confirms People with “Purpose” are Healthier, Happier, and Live Longer. Why? – SDP#8


David Perrodin, PhD



It is well known that a purpose in life is a good thing to have. An abundance of research confirms that individuals who cultivate a meaningful sense of direction for themselves tend to live longer, experience better physical & mental health, & happier, more satisfying lives.

Listen to this podcast live M-R at 9PM PST on


In a 2009 study, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) defined “purpose” as ‘tendency to derive meaning from life’s experiences and possess a sense of intentionality and goal-directedness that guides behavior’. Surprisingly, the NIH study also found that this definition was generalized across study participants. In other words, findings didn’t vary by age, sex, education or race!


Based on this particularly favorable array of evidence linking purpose with quality of life, many practitioners and researchers suggest that purpose promotes positive youth development. Yet understanding how youth actually go about finding their purpose, and the consequences of doing so within the unique context of adolescence, remain targets for ongoing research.


In this podcast, Dr. Perrodin examines evidence that purpose is an important resource that adolescents can use to successfully navigate challenges and even thrive during this period of the lifespan. He recounts finding purpose in his own life, from when he was a boy working a snow shovel late into the evening with his father clearing out driveways and sidewalks for veterans and widows to fostering community amongst folks attending a free community lunch. Smile as David re-tells an elderly man’s story of how orange juice dissolved metal processing equipment at a factory and pause to contemplate what role a sense of purpose might have in preventing harm to self or harm to others?


David describes a recently-concluded research study that found that high school seniors not only struggled to set career and other life goals, but also didn’t know how to set a goal, such as determining rationale, baseline and how to measure the goal. Dr. Perrodin hints for an agenda that places emphasis on teaching children and young adults how to set goals, and in turn, how to find purpose – a factor David feels is strongly linked to school safety (although, with regret, few studies have examined the link between purpose and safety for any population).


Myths & Realities of Search and Rescue (SAR) Dogs & Their Handlers – Interview with Jennifer Fritton

serenadeI deem that this post will inform school administrators, staff, parents and families as what to expect in the event that search and rescue (SAR) dogs are involved in a search for a lost child.  This blog post was developed, in large part, from an interview I conducted on December 14, 2016 with SAR dog handler Jennifer Fritton.  She works with a SAR team in southern Wisconsin.  Even with my 20 years in various public and school safety roles, Jennifer instilled me with new knowledge into how to best interface with SAR teams from the perspective of administrator, teacher, parent and citizen-at-large.  At the conclusion of this post are links to my interview with Jennifer in video and audio formats.  I encourage you to share this post with others.


Search and Rescue dogs (and their handlers) are incredible assets to locating missing individuals. However, a poorly executed search effort is a distinct possibility as the “Professional” rescue teams are compromised by the well-intentioned, but amateur handlers that are, with concerning frequency, self-dispatching to incident venues and interfering with evidence and overall efficiency of time-sensitive operations. 

I interviewed Jennifer Fritton, Search and Rescue Dog handler (her dog, Serenade, is in the above photo), to learn more about the training and protocols for deployment of a search and rescue dog. Ms. Fritton indicated that she is a member of a volunteer group that always works under the direction of law enforcement.  That latter point is essential as Ms. Fritton shared that a quick Internet search can enable anyone to locate handlers, and at times, people in crisis seek the aid of the handlers (and their canines) before, or without, notifying law enforcement. 


Ms. Fritton explains that such “cold calls” need to be carefully processed, with the receiver taking down the caller’s key information and asking if the caller has contacted law enforcement. The next call is made by the handler, or as Jennifer noted, often the lead person for the canine rescue group, to law enforcement in order to state, “I was contacted by this person for this reason.  Our rescue group can offer these services to any potential search that is being coordinated by law enforcement.  Tell me how we might be able to assist you.”

While one would assume that rescue dogs are badged with such credentials through a standardized training and competency assessment, that’s only a partially accurate statement. Efforts to move toward standardized baseline credentials are underway, but there remains variation between how dogs are trained and how dogs are deemed qualified to participate in various search and rescue scenes.


It might seem obvious that cell phones, GPS and the latest technology gadgets would be requisite items for handlers. These items are likely tools used by handlers, but Jennifer shared that communications are done mainly via ham Radio and that handlers are trained to navigate via the standard magnetic compass as satellite or cellular connections are unreliable in some rural searches.  Such depth of training is a marker of a properly-trained professional team.


A Ham radio requires a license and therefore limits sensitive communications to people trained in radio protocols. It’s more likely that a search and rescue/recovery operation will maintain a sense of privacy amongst those involved compared to using cell phones, 2-way radios or even older CB radios.  Ham radios are often a steady source of communication during crisis situations.  Handheld ham radios have a range of only 5 miles.  Frequent “check ins” with a mobile base station at the search location ensures that the searchers are maintained within a perimeter in which they can communicate with each other and to a mobile base, which has a range of 200 miles.


Jennifer clarified that school staff should mobilize and go to “probable” and “high-risk” areas with their cell phones per the direction of a principal or designee. This can be done prior to the arrival of law enforcement.  Although such a step makes sense, it might not be considered by the school administrator who is preparing to interface with policy and emergency responders, sharing a description of the child with a dispatcher, perhaps gathering main points from the child’s IEP (for example, is the child non-verbal?), and trying to identify a staging area. 

These are crucial steps.  However, Jennifer noted that awareness of certain rescue profiles have proven effective in searches.  For example, she shared that children with autism might gravitate to bodies of water, railroad tracks and tall objects, such as towers.  She added that children with autism have been located within large machinery and buildings.  On the other hand, a person with dementia tends to be linear and will try to overcome a barrier, such as a fence, rather than navigating around it.  Still, someone expressing harm to self is likely to stay within 1000 feet of a known road or trail. 

It is appropriate for an administrator to send staff to high-probability or high-risk areas proximal to the school. A school located near a river would certainly warrant directing one or more staff to the river.  Again, while such directives seem automatic, they will be anything but automatic upon the discovery that a child has likely wandered from school premises.  Discussing how a potential search might be handled is something that should occur at least annually between administrators and staff – even for the benefit of reminding staff to not post information on social media or respond to inquiries from the media or from parents.  Such mis-steps, which are often done with good intentions, create confusion, hysteria and flood the scene with varying degrees of “helpers” and observers.

If a rescue dog handler arrives on the scene, he or she should sign-in with incident command. Again, school staff can help with this process under the direction of law enforcement.  Someone arriving in the school parking, leaping out of their vehicle with a dog and heading directly into a field happens more than one would think, again, a point shared by Ms. Fritton.


Jennifer’s experiences implied that most search and rescue dog groups consist of volunteers and are mobilized from locations around the state. It’s similar to a volunteer fire department in that people aren’t typically “at the station” awaiting a dispatch call.  Consider that most responders might have to leave work during the day, retrieve gear and the dog, drive to the scene, be debriefed prior to the search – well, it could take over an hour for rescue dogs to be on the scene – perhaps a few hours.  The sooner police contact rescue teams, the better – and teams rarely charge fees for their services.

Search dogs are less effective in a hot cornfield in summer. Conditions matter and there are also some locations that simply aren’t suitable for search dogs – if the handler is unable to get to the location, the dog won’t be sent into harm’s way, either. 


Jennifer described that search and rescue (SAR) dogs are trained on using air scent and are typically worked by a small team on foot.  Dogs can be trained to a specific person’s scent or, in the case of a collapsed structure, simply to identify a human scent.  Some dogs are specifically trained to detect a decaying body.  While this is a gruesome concept, it’s a reality.  Although impacted by environmental conditions, dogs can detect scent sources from a distance of 1/4th mile or more.

Guide dogs are much different than rescue dogs. Guide dogs, or service animals, are trained to help a specific person with specific activities, such as opening doors, navigating, etc.  These are the dogs that are probably most frequently observed in the community assisting persons with motor disabilities, such as person with cerebral palsy using a motorized wheelchair. 

Comfort animals are becoming more common in a range of settings. Although the interview with Jennifer didn’t delve into much narrative about comfort animals, Jennifer noted that such animals might be deemed necessary by a physician for the benefit of someone with anxiety, for example.  It was clear that school districts need to understand how various laws, particularly the Americans with Disabilities Act, applies to service animals or comfort animals and how such animals should be trained and certified.  As such, this information makes for proactive policy discussions for school boards as the frequency of comfort animals in various settings is increasing and the “qualifications” for such an animal are interpretive. 

Clearly, however, a SAR dog is significantly different in its training and purpose compared to a guide dog or comfort dog. Likewise the latter animals are not suitable for rescue operations.


Ms. Fritton’s descriptions of responding to search and rescue scenes seemed to couple strongly with the app-based site-based management approach discussed by Scott Meyers of ISS24/7 in a previous interview. ISS24/7 offers digital documentation and time-stamping that, from my perspective, would benefit a SAR dog deployment.  The innate GPS-use and geographical marker information inherent to a SAR deployment would complement ISS24/7 which relies less on GPS as the site is static – there’s just not as much of a need for GPS with the ISS24/7 application in a stadium setting, for example.

The biggest take-aways from my interview with Ms. Fritton are as follows:

  1. SAR professionals must work under the direction of law enforcement. Self-dispatch is a problem and must be mitigated as best as possible.
  2. Don’t wait for the law enforcement to arrive to dispatch personnel to “high probability” locations. The people you dispatch aren’t technically searchers, but are more likely to serve in the role of interceptors or to simply observe a sign of the missing subject, such as a mitten.
  3. Make staff aware of what to anticipate in the event that a SAR occurs at the school premises. Also, educate staff on their roles and also the need to avoid rallying a rescue crowd to help with a by-foot search. If necessary, the police will coordinate such efforts.  There is such a thing as a “bad” search.
  4. If you are interested in learning more about being a member of a SAR team, perhaps in the role of a support to the team or as a handler, it is best to inquire with local law enforcement in order to be directed to the “professional” teams that are contacted by police relative to persons or teams that maintain engaging websites and abide by less formal protocols. 

David Perrodin interviewed Jennifer Fritton on December 14, 2016. The interview can be accessed via the following media sites:


The 405 Media (9PM Pacific M-R):

Direct link to this podcast on SoundCloud (audio MP3):

Subscribe to the SoundCloud RSS feed for this podcast:

Follow me (The Safety Doc) on Twitter @SafetyPhD

Follow this blog:

Learn about ISS24/7:

Sprigeo school safety systems & online reporting:

Revealing the Biggest Safety Gap in Most Professional Sports Stadiums & Arenas: Scott Meyers Interview


The following is taken from an exclusive interview David Perrodin conducted with Seth Meyers in November, 2016.  Please access the full interview via any of the media platforms noted below.

Did you know that some professional sports stadiums now equip their safety personnel with mobile devices with a drop down menu that enables them to notify a special group of responders in the event of a drone attack? App-based large venue safety management tools are evolving at incredible rates.  This special episode of “The Safety Doc” podcast features an interview with Scott Meyers, VP of Sales for ISS24/7, the industry leader setting the standard for venue management software and always improving that standard via the regular input of stakeholders via brainstorming focus groups.  Levi Stadium, home to the San Francisco 49ers, is one of many professional properties where ISS24/7 helps to reduce risks and maximize guest experience.  By digitally documenting and tracking incidents, requests, tasks, work orders, preventative maintenance, inspections, guard tours, and even lost and found items, the ISS 24/7 software elevates every facet of an organization to the highest level of efficiency and performance. Still, Scott shares that major gaps continue to challenge those charged with ensuring safe venues. And while user-friendly icon-based mobile app managed systems have become common at the professional and college levels, there is very little penetration into K-12 settings, even for districts with 70 or more schools!  Thank you for a very educational interview, Mr. Meyers!

This podcast is also available on:


The 405 Media (9PM Pacific M-R):

Direct link to this podcast on SoundCloud (audio MP3):

Subscribe to the SoundCloud RSS feed for this podcast:

Follow me (The Safety Doc) on Twitter @SafetyPhD

Follow this blog:

Learn about ISS24/7:

Sprigeo bullying reporting software & school culture development: