For this discussion question, there is one case study problem this week for you to read, consider and respond to.
Ethics in Security Consulting – Sanford County School System
You have been requested by the relatively new School Superintendent, Mary Thompson, to do an analysis of the school security system. The reason she requested you to do the study is that you came highly recommended by their police chief and also, after speaking with other references, she is confident you can assist in making some positive school security changes.
Ms. Thompson recently was selected as School Superintendent by a margin of one vote by the School Board made up of seven members. The current School Board is characterized with a lot of political in-fighting and a number of the school board members would like to see Ms. Thompson fail so their local choice for school superintendent can be appointed.
The last school superintendent retired about one-year ago after being aggravated by negative publicity to the press encouraged by a few school board members following a series of school vandalism incidents costing thousands of dollars. Moreover, a school security guard was arrested by the police for selling drugs to a student. School security has become a higher priority for both the Superintendent and the School Board.
In Ms. Thompson’s fourth month as school superintendent another 23 year old security officer was accused by a parent with having sex with a female student. The security officer resigned. It was determined that no assault had occurred and the student was over the age for a statutory rape criminal charge.
Many board members remain contentious and several have recently stated in the press that they did not want a consultant study to shift the blame from the school administration. Instead, they demanded that both the head of security and the new School Superintendent be fired. They complained that Ms. Thompson had dismissed the head of security for the sex incident. Of course, the public is upset and the recent parent teacher association (PTA) meetings have had much heated discussion creating continuing controversy and political pressure.
Before beginning the consulting assignment you meet with the School Board and Superintendent. Some members of the school board advise you that they think the school district cannot afford the study and for you to contain the cost. They emphasize try to save money, don’t find more ways to spend it. The amount for the contract is already agreed, and despite what the few say, it is reasonably priced. Board members also state that when the report is released they will make sure it goes to the press as if warning you to be careful.
After the meeting, two Board Members call you to say that they know the problems with security are a lot deeper than anyone thinks, although they will not give you anymore information. You question their motives in calling you; especially since in neither case did they offer specifics or sources of information for you to follow-up on.
After the meeting with the Board you meet with Ms. Thompson. She frankly tells you that her job is on the line and she needs your help to find out what you can to provide some direction for improving the school security system. The Chief of Police, and your reading back issues of the paper plainly support what the School Superintendent is telling you. Ms. Thompson also adds that when she was first hired and during the second month at the School Board meeting, she requested that the Board approve payment for a school security study by an outside expert. The same Board members who opposed her selection also opposed allocating funds for the security study. You sense that although Ms. Turner is impatient with certain members of the board, her true goal is to improve school security.
Ms. Thompson adds that the security supervisor is also newly hired since the last head of security was recently fired for the drug incident. The sex case is recent and from a police investigation, requested by her, they found no due cause to fire the security supervisor. Any sex between the security guard and student by all indications was after school hours and while he was off duty. She did not want to fire him, “just to appease the wolves.”
The school system has 21 schools and 10 security personnel. Only the four middle schools and two high schools have full-time security officers. In addition, the high schools also have a police liaison officer (school resource officer). She asked that you do a full study about the leadership, management and supervision, policies and procedures and operations. She requested that you also detect and identify any inefficiency so that staff could be reduced to save money in the budget since the Board is looking at significant budgetary cuts for the next school year. She also said, if there is a need for increase in costs to improve security she wants to know that as well, although she can’t see the School Board approving it without clear justification.
You asked to have access to all budget documents, personnel records, policies and procedures, and of course, the granted authority to interview security staff, and school personnel, in private with confidentiality assured. She agrees.
Two months have lapsed. You have reviewed everything in terms of budget documents, security plans, personnel files, operations, etc., including interviewing all 8 security staff (two have yet to be replaced). Part of the interview included discussions with the police school resources officers, principals of each school and selectively some teachers. The draft report that you have developed is 40 pages in length broken down in a review of the security plan, security staff, management and leadership and budgetary considerations.
Your report notes there are several CPTED changes that need to be made on school premises from removing certain shrubberies and adding a fence around the middle-schools with lighting and cameras. This will reduce school vandalism and possible other problems. Also, you note the need for security officers to work more in the parking lots before and after school to monitor students, however more importantly, to keep non-students from coming on campus.
You have uncovered some information that some drug deals are happening in the parking lots and some students even smelled pot usage. The previous security guard arrested for selling drugs evidently was being paid by a gang to give them access to students and for him to simply do nothing.
Existing policies and procedures and routine operations have interfered with security officers being effective in the parking lots since security officers are routinely posted at the main door entrance and around the buses. All students must enter the main school door at the beginning of school, although they can use multiple exits when leaving.
Although three security guards work at night patrolling back-and-forth to the school premises, there are not enough security guards to cover the parking lots and monitor door entrances. Your report states that both high school parking lots must have no less than one security officer present before and after school, as well as during large school athletic events. This is going to cost the school at least another $50,000 to provide the additional security coverage in parking lots. The police cannot assign anymore officers to support the schools.
Of course, your report addresses how the security plan missed several threats and vulnerabilities and how those risks may be reduced to protect critical assets of people, property and information. You also addressed how police and security can work more closely regarding certain developing problems with gang intimidation and rivalries that are appearing on campus over the last two years.
The security officers receive little if any training, including the new security supervisor. You note that has to change and make some good suggestions. The highest priority suggestion, however, is that you found through reliable information provided by two security officers, each wanting to remain anonymous, that one of the older security officers with 15 years tenure has on more than one occasion been found with alcohol on his breath coming off duty. On another couple of occasions he has also been found sleeping in the boiler room of the middle school.
What exacerbates the problem is that a few officers are evidently covering for him, and it is assumed although you have no direct proof, those who cover for him “go ghost,” themselves since they are all on night patrol. Again, all these men work on the night patrol, and of course, there are vandalism problems that reoccur at the schools often happening at night. You provide information how the security supervisor through placed hidden cameras can verify these allegations of sleeping on duty, along with some other investigative measures.
You are then scheduled to meet with the school superintendent. In relation to the report and that meeting, please respond to these questions supporting your position using guiding ethical principles:
1) Knowing your report will be going to the school board and be inevitably released to the public, is it ethical to simply tell the School Superintendent about the alcohol problem and likely problem with security officers sleeping on the job, or should that be written in your report?
2) If you had noted the above in writing the draft of your report and the school superintendent asked that you take it out, especially about the alcohol matter, and she said she will deal with the personnel problem without all the publicity, would you agree? If, you answered “yes,”, under what conditions and why is that ethical. If you answered, “no,” why is that ethically responsible (especially since the school superintendent believes she will likely lose her job and the employee will have to endure public shame)? His personnel file notes that he has been an exceptional employee up until the last year when he lost his wife to cancer and son in an automobile accident). What should be your position in disclosing this information to the School Board? To the public? To the media?
3) Your report underscores the need to add more security personnel for the parking lots, while keeping security at the main doors at the high schools since weapons related to emerging gang rivalries are at risk to be brought on the premises. You already provided the “tuck-in-shirt” policy and some other anti-gang policies. The school superintendent, wanting to keep the budget under control, asks that you change the wording in the report from being highly recommended to a suggested option. She emphasizes one of your assigned objectives was to help reduce security costs, now the report is calling for an increase in funds. She will be ridiculed. She recommends that your report be reworded so that these additional costs are only a mild suggestion. She promises if you do this she will hire you next year to help totally re-write the security plan and she will support it.
DISCUSSION QUESTION: Ethically, should you change the report language and sense of priority for this security measure? Ethically, why, or why not?
4) After discussing the report, the School Superintendent has you meet with the School Supervisor with her in private. The Supervisor asks you who were the security officers that provided you the information about the alcohol and sleeping on the job? The Superintendent says it would be helpful to know the identity in order to handle this serious personnel matter. They tell you they will not tell anyone. You told everyone privately spoken with during your staff interviews that everything that they shared with you would be held in confidence. Would you share their names? Why, or why not?
- Organize your ONE ORIGINAL RESPONSE this week by outlining: Question 1, Question 2, Question 3 and Question 4. Please thoughtfully address each one with your ethical responses while supporting your decision.
- Make certain you constructively respond to at least one other fellow learner’s response.