What Are the Biggest Threats to School Safety? Politics, Lobbyists, and Predatory Sales Tactics

Politicians want to keep kids safe, but without the input of school security professionals, their laws are bound to fail.

What Are the Biggest Threats to School Safety? Politics, Lobbyists, and Predatory Sales Tactics

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in security firms and other vendors turning to lobbyists to influence school safety policies. Image via Adobe, generated with AI, by John

The school safety and security sector, valued between two and three billion dollars, remains largely unregulated despite increased funding since 2018. (Funding for school security often increases after a major tragedy.) A school is lucky if it has a dedicated safety director with the experience to assess and prioritize needs as they sift through the myriad of daily sales pitches from companies trying to capture a piece of the funding. However, for the schools without this in-house expertise, they often simply “just do something” to increase safety and often rely on vendors and politicians to find their solutions.

To complicate this, in the last two years, an increasing number of vendors have been using lobbyists and campaign contributions to obtain access to politicians in hopes of creating laws that require school systems to spend their finite school safety budgets on an increasingly small number of products that do little to actually meet the needs of an all-hazard school safety strategy. Instead of politicians consulting with school safety experts on what laws and products are best, they have been listening to private venture capital-backed companies that falsely claim to have products that do amazing things such as “prevent active shooters.”

This is why under-educated politicians, high-power lobbyists, and predatory sales tactics have become the number one threat to American schools.

Politicians Mean Well, but Their Bills Fail to Protect Schools

While well-meaning politicians enact laws that seem like they could be solutions, most of the laws they pass fail to enhance school safety, primarily focusing on products instead of investing in and training qualified people. Unfunded mandates, lack of oversight and enforcement, and misaligned priorities lead these bills to fail as soon as they are signed. This happens because many politicians fail to include experts in school safety during the initial writing of school safety bills.

Having participated in close to a dozen testimonies regarding mass violence in schools, we have seen many laws enacted that have fallen short due to lack of funding and enforcement. For example, Texas recently passed House Bill 3 requiring all schools in the state to have an armed officer on every campus. This law was “dead on arrival” due to the lack of funding attached to it. The vast majority of schools in Texas are rural and don’t have additional funds to meet the requirement, which allowed them to obtain waivers to be exempt from compliance.

Another example of failed legislation was the passage of Texas Senate Bill 11 after the tragic Santa Fe High School mass shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, in May of 2018. After a year of testimonies, one of the requirements was that schools in the state complete a comprehensive safety and security audit every three years. The Texas School Safety Center oversees compliance, though they are not a regulatory agency. Just a few short years later, Texas suffered another tragedy at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. Shortly after this horrifying event, many school security experts were called to testify before the Texas Senate. During the testimony, it was discovered that in the three years since the passage of Texas Senate Bill 11, only 200 out of 1,100 school districts in Texas were compliant. Only one non-compliant district experienced any consequences.

To the defense of the director of the Texas School Safety Center, her entity is a resource center, not a compliance agency. Since then, a new chief security officer has been appointed to work under the secretary of education to oversee compliance, but only after 21 innocent souls lost their lives in Uvalde.

Many politicians really do mean well and want to do something to keep kids safe. However, without the input of school security professionals during the initial writing of legislation and subsequent testimony, their laws are bound to fail and do little to increase safety within schools.

Maryland’s 2024 legislative sessions illustrate this point. Several bills have been introduced that further limit grant funds, increase private sector profits, and/or reprioritize initiatives that don’t address the most pressing threats in our schools. These bills have been created without input from the state’s centers for school safety or from the school safety directors (which were required by the same body in 2018).

Some Vendors Use Lobbyists to Force Schools to Use Their Products

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in security firms and other vendors turning to lobbyists to influence school safety policies. This trend is driven by the vast sums of money available for school safety initiatives, with vendors seeking to secure a share of the funding for their products and services.

In states such as Virginia, Delaware, Wisconsin, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Utah, vendors have successfully lobbied for laws to be enacted that make them the sole provider of a “mandatory” school safety product, all in hopes of increasing profits, stock prices, and the likelihood of being bought out by a larger corporation. We have also seen unethical vendors provide campaign contributions to create laws so specific that only one of two vendors can meet the legislated language.

Vendors know few, if any, politicians will vote against school safety bills, even if the required solution does nothing to increase safety and only steals finite taxpayer dollars from basic strategies all schools should have. This trend of vendors hiring lobbyists raises questions about the potential influence on school safety policies and the prioritization of security measures over other aspects of education and student well-being. It is crucial to prioritize evidence-based practices over the influence of lobbyists and to ensure that school safety policies are driven by the needs of the students rather than the interests of vendors. The extortion must stop!

Predatory Sales Tactics Push Ineffective Products

Some unscrupulous vendors have even begun attacking the processes used to award contracts with emails and phone calls to school board members and superintendents in hopes of going around the school safety director or RFP process. They provide false claims and grandiose false promises about their product’s capabilities, hoping to undercut the school security expert when they choose another product.

This behavior is unethical and should lead the school to question the vendor’s product quality and capabilities since they are unwilling to compete in a free market business environment.

If a school really wants to make sure they are getting a quality product from a trusted supplier, they should follow these best practices:

  • Only use vendors that have incorporated evidence-based solutions.
  • Make sure product claims and statements are backed by research and historical data.
  • Vendors should have a lengthy history in the school security space.
  • If high-pressure sales tactics are used, the company is not one a school district should work with.
  • Demand a live product demonstration to determine if the product works as advertised.
  • Ask for references. Reputable vendors will provide references of organizations they have worked with successfully and others whom they have experienced challenges with.
  • Avoid working with companies that boast of political wins, advertise they work with lobbyists, or speak badly of every other solution provider in their specific space.

It Takes a Tailored, Layered Approach to Improve School Safety

Schools are unique as fingerprints and face threats that range from a stray dog on a playground, propped open doors, and angry parents, to community-based gun violence and active assailants. Each of these issues requires vastly different strategies and solutions to prevent, mitigate, respond to, and recover from. No one solution will eliminate all risks within schools, but a layering of different technologies and strategies can be highly effective in an overall security plan.

This plan should have common sense practices attached to it such as:

  • At a minimum, schools should have a school safety director with relevant experience.
  • Classroom doors should be locked and there should be electronic access control points that can lock doors automatically if needed.
  • Guided vestibules that ensure traffic entering the school is funneled directly to the main office versus providing access to the whole school.
  • Limit entry points to reduce threats coming into the facility.
  • Develop standard response protocols to ensure the school is prepared to handle a threat.
  • Enclose open-space schools and incorporate fences around campuses.
  • Incorporate safety films on glass for another added layer of protection.
  • Install interoperable radio systems that can communicate with public safety officials and staff in the event of an emergency.
  • Develop and enforce a student code of conduct.
  • Ensure the school has operational security cameras with server that records video from the cameras.
  • Perform behavioral health threat and risk assessments to identify vulnerable students.
  • Empower and train staff.

Schools cannot purchase their way to safety and security, and mandatory state requirements will not make schools safer as a whole. The best solutions must include the foundational principles of strong student/staff relationships, positive school culture/climate, and a well-trained staff/student body. Schools should not be required to purchase or even consider the latest technological marvel until they have mastered these foundational principles, built expertise in the fundamentals of school safety, and installed, built, and/or mastered the basic security solutions listed above.

When Buying School Security Solutions, Beware of Emotional Manipulation Tactics

High-pressure sales tactics and emotional manipulation threaten the integrity of school safety initiatives nationwide. Trustworthy solutions should not require coercion, lobbying or a new law, but rather stand on their merits backed by comprehensive, evidence-based strategies.


About the authors:

Shane Giblin has over 10 years of experience in the school safety space. Currently, he serves as a federal law enforcement agent and as an advisor and advocate to various nationwide nonprofit organizations, contributing to initiatives that promote safer educational environments. He has over 18 years of public service and is a Marine Corps veteran. He is also a member of the Founding Advisory Board for ZeroNow.

Mike Matranga is an ex-secret service CAT and presidential protective detail member. He was the director of school safety for Texas City ISD and has served as an elected school board member. He is currently the founder and CEO of M6 Global Defense Group.

Jason Stoddard has over 20 years of experience in the school safety space. He is currently a director for a large school system in Maryland. Before joining his local school system, he spent over 20 years in law enforcement, including a number of years as an SRO. He is also an Air Force veteran and a member of the Founding Advisory Board for ZeroNow.

NOTE: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to Campus Safety.

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4 responses to “What Are the Biggest Threats to School Safety? Politics, Lobbyists, and Predatory Sales Tactics”

  1. School safety/security threats and hazards need to be viewed through an all-hazards lens. And that means not compromising the integrity of systems, staff, training, exercising, and most importantly the overall planning to benefit one threat/hazard over another. It is much more an overall set of emergency action plans needed, than just a school safety plan (and yes, there needs to be ‘before’ planning, as well as ‘after’ planning, too). Expenditures for equipment which adds to anti-attacker protective elements for example, cannot be at the expense of existing fire safety elements. One can use the story of Joe Clark, principal of a high school in Paterson, NJ (from the movie “Lean on Me”) who barricaded all of the schools doors against ‘hoodlums’, only to remove them under threat of court action by the city, because of fire safety concerns. Professional emergency management – and there are a number of districts who have a team on staff – can see these trees, all of the trees, from this forest.

  2. Heath Wester says:

    This article could not be more accurate, thank you for sharing

  3. Jeremiah Main, MS Ed., PSP says:

    I noticed that the article only linked to the bills that have been passed and does not call out those “vendors (that) have successfully lobbied for laws to be enacted that make them the sole provider of a “mandatory” school safety product,”.
    I believe it is beneficial to us all that there is transparency here.
    The Virginia link is to house bill #741 that doesn’t regulate any product, only the implementation of plans and surveys using state provided guides and templates. Can you please provide for us the product that Virginia has written into legislation?
    The Delaware link is to House Substitute 1 for House Bill 49 which requires “a secured vestibule to be used as the primary entrance to screen visitors, installation of ballistic resistant glass or other ballistic resistant materials in all areas used to screen visitors, installation of a panic button or intruder alert system, and classroom doors that can be locked on the outside with a key or magnetic card locking system.” However, no product is named. Can you please provide for us the specific vendor that is a sole provider of a product that Delaware has written into legislation?
    The Wisconsin Link is to 2023 ASSEMBLY BILL 542 which requires and funds “school boards and governing bodies of private schools to acquire proactive firearm detection software.” However it does not limit it to any specific “sole provider”. Can you please provide for us the specific vendor that is a sole provider of a product that Wisconsin has written into legislation?
    The Colorado link is to HOUSE BILL 24-1123 which is legislation to provide funding for school wishing to obtain “firearm detection software” but does not mandate obtaining that product nor does it specify a “sole provider”. Can you please provide for us the specific vendor that is a sole provider of a product that Colorado has written into legislation?
    The Pennsylvania link is to House Bill 2026 which is “- A school entity may, with the approval of the department, enter into a contract or other agreement with a vendor for the lease, purchase, installation, operation or maintenance of a firearm detection technology or other equipment and supplies necessary for the proper operation of the firearm detection technology.” which is only granting schools permission to utilize this technology and does not specify a “sole provider”. Can you please provide for us the specific vendor that is a sole provider of a product that Delaware has written into legislation?
    The Iowa link is to House Study Bill 692 which is for “the issuance of school bonds, requiring schools to conduct school safety reviews and have access to the statewide interoperable communications system, establishing the school emergency radio access grant program and the firearm detection software grant program within the department of homeland security and emergency management, requiring the department of public safety to convene a task force related to the safety and security standards of schools and school infrastructure, making appropriations, and including effective date provisions.” No where in the bill is a “sole provider” identified. Can you please provide for us the specific vendor that is a sole provider of a product that Iowa has written into legislation?
    The Utah link is to HB 61 for school safety requirement. Again, just like in every other link provided as citations supporting the claim that states are legislating sole provider products, I saw no such mention in this bill. In fact, this bill actually mandates the very thing that your article talks about, specifically an RFP: “In accordance with Title 63G, Chapter 6a, Utah Procurement Code, the state board shall issue a request for proposals, on or before June 15, 2023, and enter a contract with a private vendor for firearm detection software to detect and alert district personnel and first responders about the presence of visible, unholstered firearms on school property.” Can you please provide for us the specific vendor that is a sole provider of a product that Utah has written into legislation?

    Your article calls out what you believe should be some minimum standards and the fact of the matter is that these links that you have provided prove that many of these states are in fact legislating the things that you are saying should be minimum standards (i.e. safety directors, door locks, guided vestibules, SRPs, etc.)

    Can you please help us all out and clarify the “sole provider” products that are being written into legislation? without those citations, I am finding this article to be very confusing. It would appear that the states are actually legislating the things that you want to be standardized!

    Lastly, a few of your listed criteria for best practices in selecting a vendor just aren’t reality:
    “- Only use vendors that have incorporated evidence-based solutions.
    – Make sure product claims and statements are backed by research and historical data.
    – Vendors should have a lengthy history in the school security space.”

    Regarding the first and second bullet points – the sad reality is that you cannot find research around efficacy of physical security measures or “evidence” of their effectiveness and your 3rd bullet point is very narrow minded and certainly not considered a best practice to reject something that hasn’t operated in your space before.

    I offer these comments to attempt to bring clarity to an other-wise confusing presentation in the hopes that a more sound argument can be presented to support the notion that “under-educated politicians, high-power lobbyists, and predatory sales tactics have become the number one threat to American schools”

    Thank you in advance for your response as we all try to improve our security posture by pursuing well though out positions.

  4. Jeremiah Main, MS Ed., PSP says:

    I dug deeper into this and offer the following amended comments:

    Thank you for shedding light on this topic. I’m going to dive deeper into the pool here, as I think that we could all benefit from a little more dialogue and clarity on the matter. Thanks.

    In case anyone else is like me and read all the bills that are linked here, you will notice that there isn’t a named sole source provider in any of the bills. However, if you look closely at the Wisconsin, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Utah Bills, they all lay out some very specific qualifications for what product may be acquired. Now, while your article even goes over some vendor selection criteria, one may think that legislating some of that criteria may be a good thing. In fact, I believe there is some value in that such as the John McCain act which prohibits federal money from being used to out Communist Chinese Party owned products on our security infrastructure. I believe this type of legislation is appropriate. However, you will see here some specific “qualifications” for vendor selection that have absolutely nothing to do with the efficacy, validity, or viability of which vendor to select. So why have these qualifications been added to the legislation? This is a question that tax payers need to be asking their legislators and demand a free and open market with healthy competition and sure, prohibit harmful items but why are we legislating points that don’t matter which are effectually narrowing the selection down to a single vendor?

    I’d also like to point out that, in my opinion, this type of legislation is putting the cart before the horse. States are mandating, in some cases, that schools spend money on a 4th tier security product when they don’t even have their front door locked (a 1st tier issue)!!

    Lastly, a a little clarification on 3 of your listed criteria for best practices in selecting a vendor just aren’t reality:

    “- Only use vendors that have incorporated evidence-based solutions.

    – Make sure product claims and statements are backed by research and historical data.

    – Vendors should have a lengthy history in the school security space.”

    Regarding the first and second bullet points – the sad reality is that you cannot find research around efficacy of physical security measures or “evidence” of their effectiveness however there are “best practices” or standards or guidelines of protection that should be followed.

    The 3rd bullet point construed as a carpet rejection of new entries to the space which should also be cautioned against as that new entry could very well be a very necessary and wise addition.

    Bottom line, I’m in full agreement – let’s stop legislating things that shouldn’t be legislated. Call your representative, hold them accountable, and put a stop to this! Let’s get our priorities in order and properly staff and fund our security response. And let’s use a risk-assessed informed plan for a smart and tiered implementation of security measures.

    Thank you again for the dialogue and lets keep the conversation going!

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