Customer Perceived Value – Putting a Price on Safe Schools | SAFETY DOC PODCAST #101 with David Perrodin, PhD [Podcast]

[Podcast] You can’t put a price tag on keeping schools safe – or can you? The $3 billion school safety industry is on a nonstop trajectory for both number of bills proposed and bills enacted to legislate, and sometimes fund, a staggering array of new mandates and unchecked block grants for school safety.

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Customer perceived value (CPV) is the notion that the success of a product or service your business offers hinges on whether customers believe it can satisfy their wants and needs. Most of us can relate to this when purchasing a car. The salesperson will gauge what is important to us and tailor the pitch. If we are looking for a family vehicle, then safety and space are selling points. If it’s a commuter, then it’s fuel economy and ease to maneuver in traffic.


Let’s be honest, school boards are entry-level political positions. Superintendents last 2-3 years in the role, and a teacher with 5 years in the same school is a seasoned veteran. The stats support all of that, but there’s something else going on. School boards and school leadership were entrusted to become informed and then to make the critical decisions about school operations. Today, the CPV model has changed. The parent is the customer and the school leaders and boards are dancing to their tune. When the perceived value is increased student safety, it’s practically unthinkable to assign a price tag to “peace of mind.” This isn’t a callous statement. But, with all the grant money being hurled at schools with minimal guidance and even less accountability, the vendors swoop with amazing presentations to sell schools unproven window dressings. And, it works as we are now convinced that (1) any device might contribute to making a school safer and (2) it’s savage to put a price limit on school safety.


First, the current model of school safety spending isn’t sustainable. Just as we accept that there isn’t a price cap on school safety, couldn’t the argument be made to spend ten times what we are spending now for more bollards, armored buses, fences, guards – and, you know, the things they use at prisons? Second, school safety conferences have become overrun by fortification vendors. The list of speakers is FBI, CIA, FBI, and whatever. The scholars of the field don’t get to the stage as they know we can’t fortify our way to safety – and that message isn’t congruent with the $50,000 the conference is raking in from device-selling vendors and sponsors. The latest trend is to hand the breakout sessions over to the vendors. Instead of a breakout on learning about conducting focus groups with students, it’s now a presentation about window films to slow an intruder. What? And, once these practices are vetted, the weeds are difficult to remove and the lawn is just green and that’s fine, I suppose.


The message from the heap of safety bills and plush grant funding is that to “solve” the problem of school safety, administrators, boards, teachers, parents and students must look external to the government. It’s called the transference dynamic and it was used as a political means to justify all kinds of spending to fortify the US from Russia in the early 1980s (read School of Errors – Rethinking School Safety in America).  To makes schools safer, we need to get the kids involved – and crack the Youth Code of Silence in which 81% of the time someone else, usually a peer, was aware ahead of time of a pending school attack.


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