From the Desk of the Director – Entering a New Era of School Violence Prevention

On October 24 this year, the Safe Communities Institute, the Annenberg School for Communication, and USC overall embarked on a mission to facilitate and energize a national conversation on school safety. The acts of mass violence in U.S. schools, as well as the more regular insidious violence that seldom receives media attention, continue to occur. And while concern is evident, the national conversation has made slim progress in advancing school safety.

Considering the growing threat to America’s students and the persistent challenges in holding productive discussions, we sought a way to bring people from across the country together to forge a new understanding of school safety.

Thus, through the inaugural USC National Safe Schools Digital Summit, which was streamed live online, we reached thousands of people across the country and in a way that was accessible, convenient and free. The resulting viewership was extraordinary.

  • Viewers from 257 cities in 38 states and 8 countries
  • More than 5,000 live-stream views and impressions
  • Nearly 600 total hours of live viewership across the world
  • Support and promotion from dozens of teacher and school administrator associations, PTAs, professional safety and security organizations, media outlets and many other partners.

We continue to receive compliments regarding the panel conversations and invitations to collaborate with school violence prevention organizations. The recordings of the Summit panels, as well as additional interviews on school safety, are available now on the SCI website.

We would not have been able to offer this important event without the generous donations from our sponsors and would like to thank them again: AmWINS, Alliant, Markel, Chubb, Allegion, Berkley Public Entity Managers, Harry Zimmerman, Great American Insurance Group, LA Parent Magazine and Campus Safety Magazine.

USC National Safe Schools Digital Summit

The USC National Safe Schools Digital Summit will become an annual event, but there is no time to rest between now and next year. SCI and its partners are already working on a range of activities related to school violence prevention.

Innovative Projects – We are engaged in a new and innovative research effort sponsored by the National Science Foundation entitled, “Impact of Building Design Attributes on Occupant Behavior in Response to Active Shooter Incidents in Offices and Schools.” With the use of virtual reality technology and avatars, this project will examine if school and office occupants can be rendered safer and more secure by the design of their built space. Our partners are the Viterbi School of Engineering and USC’s Institute for Creative Technology.

New Collaboration – We are meeting with various violence prevention and community engagement groups, such as “Game Changer,” in furtherance of moving “Toward a New Understanding” of the causes of violence and exploring holistic responses to these complex challenges.

Strong Partnerships – SCI continues to partner with the Anti-Defamation League, offering “Understanding Bias and Hate on Campus,” to discuss hate crimes, the impact they have on the nation’s campuses, and how students, faculty and staff should respond.

A Hub for Research – Most important, we are continuing to work toward the establishment of a USC National Safe and Secure Schools Center, convening policymakers, scholars, experts, and stakeholders in a nationwide consortium of partners devoted to developing policy and best practices to address these threats.

Thank you for your continued support and confidence in our work. We look forward to being part of the solution.

Erroll Southers

Dr. Erroll Southers is USC Associate Senior Vice President of Safety and Risk Assurance. He is the former Director of the Safe Communities Institute, a former FBI Special Agent, Presidential nominee for TSA Administrator and California Governor’s appointee to the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security. He holds roles around the world and throughout the international counterterrorism and national security arena.

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