Tell us about your business/for purpose organization:
School Dangers Organization is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded to improve the safety and security of school age children.
Current events and nationwide tragedies such as the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting have sparked an awareness of gun violence, bullying, and drugs/weapons on school campuses. While these issues are not new (our incidents database goes back to 1902), federal laws for school security are lacking or inconsistently enforced. Lacking strong federal guidance, research shows that individual states continue to struggle with these issues and we see states reinvent the wheel.
Our mission is to improve school safety nationwide through advocacy, education and application of technology. This is accomplished by educating the public, fostering an environment for open discussion, and by delivering services for training, planning, regulatory compliance, and improved communication between students, parents and school officials.
SDO as an organization is very young, but our core concepts and programs started well over three years ago. Officially we opened our doors in November of 2014, filed with the IRS for approval as a 501(c)3 charitable organization in January 21, 2015, and received our Determination Letter on April 6, 2015.
School Dangers currently has two employees (Greg Bernardo –CEO, Frank J. Davies – CFO) and twelve volunteers/interns. Greg manages the volunteers and mentors the interns, who in turn support the organization’s website development, school law research, and grant writing.
What makes your company/organization leaders in your industry?
As far as we can tell, School Dangers is the only organization that is offering the following resources to help schools and educate the public.
Consolidated Information about School Safety Statistics and Law/Bills
We subscribe to the philosophy that “You can’t manage, what you can’t measure”. We are tracking, school related incidents, laws, and proposed laws (bills) and are in the process of making all of this information accessible to the public from our website. By knowing what types of incidents are occurring, how prevalent those incidents are, and the outcomes of different mitigation strategies, legislators can better focus on what is important. By knowing what laws exist and what bills have been proposed, we the public (parents, students, grandparents) can determine if our legislators are on the right track.
There is a lot of information available from reliable sources, but the information is scattered. Consolidation, correlation, and fact checking have started and pieces are starting to show up on our website. Our School Incidents Timeline just launched which gives access to 520 incidents ranging back to 1902! This summer, we will deliver an annual Report Card on State School Security Laws correlating the information we have researched against best practices and existing state laws.
Leveraging Technology for Positive Change
We are working on a couple of projects that leverage technology in ways that are either unique in scale or are currently unavailable. Official after-action-reports for school incidents (such as Columbine and Newtown CT) identify that someone knew something or saw something that could have prevented the tragedy. These reports also highlight how unprepared the schools are. Currently, only around 19 states have implemented proactive guidelines to prevent security and safety breaches by requiring public schools to perform state mandated security assessments.
Currently our focus is on improved tools for incident reporting and security assessment tools. In each case, provisional patents outline functionality that we believe is necessary to set the bar for these types of solutions and make them affordable or free.
Who or what has influenced you?
In the advocacy area, I have been inspired by a lot of what is going on with government transparency and the efforts of groups like the Sunlight Foundation. Their efforts make it easier for the general public, to know and understand what our government does or does not do for us.
In the technology area, open source tools and applications have opened up a much wider range of social good solutions that would be too expensive to develop otherwise. Hand in hand with open source, are the social good Hackathons like the ones sponsored by Intel’s Code for Good program. We may be looking at a Hackathon to develop some of our tools.
What key qualities do you look for in your employees/team?
Senior management is always crunched for time. As a result, I am always on the lookout for team members that are self-starters and motivated beyond punching a time clock. These people are the ones that catch my attention and the ones I want to surround myself with.
Words of advice for others growing their business/for purpose organization?
Competent and experienced subject matter experts are money well spent. School Dangers Org started as a spark of idea over three years ago. Had we immediately brought in our current attorney and non-profit consultant, we could have avoided a couple of significant speed-bumps and brought School Dangers out sooner.