Apr 14 2008

A long, hard look at security: many schools are installing cameras and other safety features for deterrence and peace of mind

By Brenda Branswell, The Gazette

Steve Bletas starts rhyming off the scenes of school shootings in North America when asked what prompted his school board to beef up security.

“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say Columbine, Dawson, Taber, Virginia Tech,” said Bletas, chairperson of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board.

By September, all the board’s high schools will be equipped with cameras and buzzer systems at front doors where people can be seen on camera, Bletas said.

The board, which has schools in Laval, the Laurentians and Lanaudière regions, is starting to install 100 security cameras in its high schools and adult centres at a cost of about $320,000 – a move Bletas says puts his board at the forefront of the issue.

But it isn’t the only school board trying to bolster security. At the English Montreal School Board, where many schools already had cameras, all 62 youth and adult centres are getting at least two new ones, director-

general Antonio Lacroce said. “There’s no question that safety and security has been a big concern all along,” Lacroce said.

“I think the situation at Dawson simply heightened it and accelerated the process,” he said referring to the 2006 shooting at the downtown CEGEP. One student died in the attack and 20 others were injured.

The EMSB is investing about $1.1 million, which includes security upgrades that will signal whether a door is open.

Staff in the school office will be able to view the camera images, although Lacroce acknowledged their eyes won’t be glued to them. He called it impossible to stop a crazed person, but said he believes the cameras will serve as a deterrent.

“I think what we’re saying is we’re putting into place measures that will increase the safety and security of our children,” Lacroce said.

“We don’t want to create a jail but at the same time we want to make sure that the children feel safe – and that the parents feel that their children are safe.”

“We’re putting in some high-quality stuff, with a buzzer and a speaker at the front door so that not only can we see the people who want to come in, but we can speak with them,” Lacroce said.

Lacroce said they hope schools “piggyback” on the board’s initiative with their own school funds and install a few more cameras.

Viky Keller, a parent commissioner at the EMSB, wishes the new cameras weren’t needed. “But times are so different from when I went to school that unfortunately, it’s a reality,” Keller said.

“I think it makes people feel more comfortable, to know that they can see who is ringing (at the door), who you are going to buzz in.”

The Commission scolaire de Montréal recently set up a committee to study the security camera issue. It is looking at what is being done in its network and elsewhere, CSDM spokesperson Alain Perron said – such as at the Lester B. Pearson School Board.

Two months after the Dawson College tragedy, the Pearson board on the West Island allocated $600,000 to beef up security in its schools. The measures included security cameras, door alarms and buzzer systems, said Viviane Croubalian, the board’s assistant director-general.

Sam Abramovitch, a parent on the governing board at Laurier Senior High School in the Sir Wilfrid Laurier Board, calls the cameras a great idea.

While he thinks the school is safe, Abramovitch said he and other parents “are really concerned with security.”

Even if they aren’t monitored all the time, Abramovitch said: “It’s still a deterrent.”

Compared to high schools, elementary schools are generally “locked down and buttoned up,” said Michael Wiener, head of the Laurier Teachers Union. At the primary schools, people have to ring a bell to be let in and then get a visitor’s badge, Wiener said.

“A high school is a very different beast, because you can have up to two-dozen entrances and exits,” he said.

“I’ve always thought it’s a great thing,” Wiener said of the cameras. But he cautions it could be an invitation to complacency. “So we’re saying that it is not the be-all and the end-all,” he said. “It’s one part of the process.”

In a report to the board, an emergency preparedness consultant said the key to success is deterrence followed by action if necessary. The report said cameras need to be monitored and school officials need to act quickly if a problem arises, which would send the message that “we are watching and we are taking action.”

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Apr 14 2008

Bullying happens in workplace, too

By Earl Horlyk, Sioux City Journal

Bullying doesn’t just take place in the playground. It may be happening in your workplace too.

In fact, according to psychologist Gary Namie, bullying in the workplace has reached “epidemic proportion.”

“Thirty-seven percent of American workers have reported being bullied at the workplace,” he said, citing a recent Zogby poll, “and another 12 percent have said they have witnessed it happening.”

“Including these witnesses,” Namie said, “workplace bullying has affected nearly half of all American workers.”

That’s why Namie, co-founder of the Washington-based Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) with his wife, Ruth, will be conducting a professional development session from 2 to 4 p.m., today at West High School.

The session, in partnership with the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention, will be at West’s Media Center.

Previewing his “Workplace Bullying — the New Harassment” presentation, Namie agreed to do a Q & A with the Sioux City Journal.

Sioux City Journal: “Why is workplace bullying considered a new sort of harassment? Hasn’t it been going on forever?”

Namie: “Yes it has, but it’s been like a dirty little secret. People know that sexual harassment is illegal but bullying is four times as prevalent. (Bullying) has been a silent epidemic because people felt they couldn’t talk about it and because they knew employers would look the other way and do nothing about it. The WBI has been working with state legislatures and the courts in an attempt to effect anti-bullying state laws. We’ve also been working with progressive businesses to recognize its impact on their employees.”

Journal: “What’s the difference between acceptable, routine conduct versus abusive bullying?

Namie: “Workplace bullying doesn’t mean merely being rude to a subordinate. The workplace bully publicly humiliates a co-worker, deliberately sabotages a co-worker’s career, verbally threatens, or even physically threatens the co-worker. The impact on the bullied co-worker can range from anxiety, depression, all the way up to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”

Journal: “Why is workplace bullying prevalent among educators in schools?”

Namie: “The kind of person drawn to teaching wants to develop and educate people. That person may be a nurturing type of person who’d rather turn the other cheek than confront the bully. Everything that makes that person a good teacher also makes them an easy mark for a narcissistic, egotistical bully.”

Journal: “What impact does it have on students?”

Namie: “The impact is great. Forty-five percent of the people who experience bullying also experience stress-related health complications. This increases the rate of absenteeism which impacts the teacher’s ability to teach your child. A good teacher may even decide the work isn’t worthwhile because of the abuse. How can a teacher tell a student that it’s wrong bullying others if it happens to the teacher? How much credibility will this teacher have with the student?

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Apr 14 2008

Dealing with workplace violence

By Jeffrey Williamson-Link, M.D., The Business Ledger

At one time the phrase “violence at work” made us think of police officers and their run-ins with dangerous criminals. Now workplace violence is considered everything from bullying e-mails and verbal threats at one end of the spectrum, to the ultimate, a deadly attack by terrorists that kills thousands.

The person behind the violence may be a stranger coming to your workplace specifically to commit a crime, an enraged customer who attacks an employee, a fellow employee with a grudge, or even the spouse of an employee who brings a domestic conflict to the employee’s workplace. All of these categories of people are represented in the 800 workplace homicides that occur each year in the United States.

No employer wants to see any employee become a victim of violence. Not only are such situations personally distressing, but they also have an economic impact. The direct expense of physical attacks may include worker’s comp costs and property damage.

There also are indirect expenses. Your workforce morale and productivity are likely to plummet after violent episodes. This is true to varying degrees even when the aggressive attacks are verbal, rather than physical. And it’s difficult to attract and keep employees in settings that aren’t perceived as safe.

What’s the likelihood of violence hitting your workplace? According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “Survey of Workplace Violence Prevention” 2006 report, nearly 5 percent of the 7.1 million private businesses who responded to the survey had had an incident within the previous 12 months. There were significantly more incidents in the largest companies. More than half the companies with more than 1,000 employees said incidents had occurred in that time period.

Yet more than 70 percent of U.S. workplaces do not have a formal program or policy that addresses workplace violence. Of those that do have a program or policy, co-worker violence is the area most frequently covered (82 percent), with 72 percent addressing customer or client violence and 53 percent addressing criminal violence.

What can the employer do to reduce the likelihood of workplace violence and lessen its impact if it does occur?

Thoroughly assess your organization’s policies, procedures and resources relating to safety. If you don’t have a policy for workplace violence, now is a good time to develop one, both for prevention and crisis management. The tragedy at Northern Illinois University is a good example of the benefits of a plan. The school was praised for its quick communications with students and effective campus shut-down during a recent shooting rampage by a former student.

Develop fair and equitable human resources policies, such those relating to performance reviews, discipline and promotions and be diligent about reference and background checks.

Be prompt and consistent in rooting out workplace harassment and discrimination.

Provide training for your managers and supervisors in employee relations and conflict resolution skills. Make sure they know when to call the authorities and when a referral to your employee assistance program or other resource might be appropriate. Let them know they should not attempt to be therapists.

Consider offering employee education programs in stress management, anger management, conflict resolution and personal security measures.

Stay up-to-date on your industry’s best practices in safety technology. Some of the measures that are now common weren’t until fairly recently, such as the use of cameras in retail settings, metal detectors in schools, and buzzers for admission to designated areas in hospitals. It’s better to install whatever technology is appropriate for your organization before an incident occurs.

If you have a security staff, invest in training in defusing volatile situations.

Train your employees to report any suspicious behavior or activities on the part of co-workers, customers or visitors to the workplace. They should not confront any person who poses a threat. The accompanying sidebar points out types of behavior that may be warning signs of violence.

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Apr 14 2008

Bring (concealed) guns to campus

By Justin Bryant, The Daily

As students, our safety is constantly in question. We get alerts from the UW Police Department. We have seen the faces of our fellow students on the news after violent attacks in the U-District. And we all know about the horrible events that have taken place at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech.

But what is being done to ensure our safety? More importantly, what should be done to ensure our safety?

The answer may not seem as obvious as it should be. Ensuring student safety on our campus starts and ends with students’ right to defend themselves. And that means allowing concealed carry of handguns on our campus.

Naturally, the idea of allowing guns on our campus as a way to increase safety seems counterintuitive. How are we supposed to have an open learning environment when students may be carrying weapons? And what about students lashing out and shooting classmates or a teacher in a moment of rage?

These fears are understandable, but a look at the facts shows that allowing concealed carry at the UW will not be harmful to anyone, except the criminals who victimize students. The amount of students who would carry a weapon is relatively low. Only one in 100 individuals carry a concealed handgun in public under current laws. And because of the very definition of “concealed,” those few students carrying a handgun would have to keep it out of sight.

We can rationally assume that, even in Kane 130, fewer than five students would be carrying a handgun on any one day. Because we know how few of our fellow classmates actually make it to class, it would probably be closer to three or fewer. And Kane 130 is in the biggest lecture hall at the UW.

But who is to say one of those few kids wouldn’t use that gun in a moment of rage? Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist who has studied school shootings, explains in an ABC News report that not one school shooting has taken place in such a rash moment of anger. An individual who would actually consider such an act would have deep emotional issues and would plan such an attack.

Studies also show that individuals who carry a concealed weapon are actually a much safer group of the general population. The Journal of Legal Studies published a well-substantiated article finding that concealed carry license holders are five times less likely to commit a violent crime.

But what about our learning environment? Will everyone be scared? No. Schools across the country that allow concealed carry have not had any problems to date. Colorado State University, Blue Ridge Community College in Virginia and all Utah state colleges have been crime free and incident free since allowing students to defend themselves.

By simply looking at our concealed carry laws, it is easy to see that concealed carry on campus won’t affect our learning environment. Considering that one in 100 people carry guns, no one is worried about going to a movie theater, where more people would carry concealed guns than in an average lecture hall. We aren’t worried when we walk through the mall, though the number of concealed handguns there is likely in the double digits.

Once concealed carry is allowed at the UW, our fear of it will vanish.

With the unacceptable amount of crime occurring near our campus, students must be allowed to defend themselves. Allowing students to carry concealed weapons will help reduce the crime rate. According to a US Department of Justice report, 40 percent of felons did not commit one or more crimes for fear that their potential victim could be armed.

But at the UW, we don’t get that protection. When we walk off campus, we walk with targets on our backs. Criminals know we aren’t armed because it is banned. Allowing concealed carry will create an additional barrier to prevent students from additional acts of senseless crime.

If we can prevent another student from nearly being beaten to death on her way to school or limit the number of students who are mugged each year near our campus, why wouldn’t we do it? It is because students haven’t spoken up.

But now is your chance. The UW will be the site of an Empty Holster Protest all next week. Help change minds and protect your fellow students by strapping on an empty holster for the week.

We must be safe on and near campus. Let’s put our safety concerns to rest so we can spend our days worried about our education and not our safety.

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Apr 13 2008

Dealing with difficult employees

By Jennifer Ledet, Bayou Business Review

We’ve all had the “pleasure” of working with someone who we would classify (very diplomatically) as “difficult.” If you’re a leader or manager and you haven’t yet had the opportunity to supervise such an individual, then count yourself as lucky. I know I’ve certainly had to deal with my fair share of difficult co-workers as well as subordinates, and I hear this complaint from clients quite often.

You know the ones. The “Complainer,” the “Gossip,” the “Bully,” the “Harasser,” the “Green-eyed Monster,” the “Manipulator,” the “Underminer” and the list goes on. You can probably add a few of your own. These people have the ability to make you, your workplace, and other employees miserable. They undermine productivity, morale, customer service and team spirit.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a one-size-fits-all solution for this problem. Sorry. I will say this, though, in order to deal with these people effectively, you will need to understand what motivates them to act the way they do. Don’t worry — I’m not going to get into a bunch of psychobabble.

We’ll call these people “difficult” — you can substitute your preference of descriptive terms, but please keep it G-rated! More often than not, I’ve found that difficult people act the way they do because they can, and because this behavior has worked for them in the past. That’s how they gain control over situations (and other people).

As their supervisor, you can ignore the behavior. I must warn you, though, that you may wind up losing your top performers as well as customers, morale, credibility, and respect from your other employees. Not your best plan of action!

Your second option is to hold firm — no matter how difficult it might be — until the behavior is corrected. You don’t have to play on their terms! Your reaction and attitude toward the “difficult” employee are your best defenses, and you can control them.

When I conduct training for leaders, I remind them to go after the negative behavior, not the person doing the behaving. If you maintain this focus, you will avoid getting personal and thus, exacerbating the problem, (and often falling into their trap).

The following are a few steps you can take in dealing with the difficult people that I’ve compiled from various sources, particularly from my own experience.

Expect a positive outcome, no matter what the history has been. Your expectations will shape your non-verbal communications, which in turn can affect the outcome. (I know it’s easier said than done.)

Be direct, descriptive and nonjudgmental. Remember: Go after the deed, not the doer. Be careful not to be judgmental, because you don’t know everything going on in the employee’s life that could be contributing to the behavior.

Address the facts — don’t deal with gossip or rumors. Secondhand information must be confirmed or admitted to by the source before you can deal with it.

Focus on the problem behavior. Don’t attack the individual.

Be aware of your body

language. Maintain steady eye contact.

Watch your tone of voice and timing. You definitely should not be accusatory or argumentative. Take enough time to make sure you don’t blurt out something that you’ll regret later.

Ask questions instead of explaining it over and over again. Try asking the difficult employee what he or she can do to solve the problem.

Be clear. Don’t expect people to read your mind. Tell them what you expect from them.

Don’t let bad behavior drag on unaddressed for very long. The damage done to the morale of other employees may be irreversible.

Try something new. If it didn’t work in the past, it makes no sense to keep trying it and expecting different results.

In addition to taking these steps, we sometimes will have to come to the conclusion that the difficult person will probably not change. Ultimately, we can only be responsible for our own behavior and how we allow the behaviors of others to affect us. We’re the ones charged with the responsibility of putting an end to the behavior that disrupts and undermines the work group and reduces productivity and effectiveness.

Well, I told you I had no magical, one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of the difficult employee. Or should I say, the employee who behaves badly? Good luck and keep your chin up!

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