School Security: An Interview with Johnathan Tal

The following is an interview on school security with Johnathan Tal, CEO of TAL Global, for a major trade publication. 

school security

Johnathan Tal
Chief Executive Officer
TAL Global Corporation

What are some of the biggest school security issues we are facing right now?

Schools are, by definition, vulnerable places. They are public places where students, teachers, and staff can come and go.  In public schools, the city is usually responsible for providing security, but smaller schools (most of them) do not get what is called an SRO (School Resource Officer). Private schools are often even more inadequate when it comes to security. Add to this the psychological impact of a school attack and the “copycat” syndrome that all too often follows, and you have a perfect storm focused on this vulnerable focal point.

What do you see as realistic steps that can be taken to support student safety and security and make schools safer?

Security is built on a three-legged stool:  

  1. People
  2. Technology
  3. Procedures

The building and security technology and all that comes with it, including access control, perimeter fences, cameras, and so on, is one leg.

But people are the key: When it comes to improving school security, students, teachers, staff, and parents are all players and need to participate. They must, for example:

  •       Notify authorities when a threat is made.
  •       Be alert to threats and potential threats.
  •       Be supported by local authorities and administrators.
  •       Conduct a threat assessment, which looks for potential hazards to a school facility and suggests to school administrators how and why these hazards should be corrected.
  •       Provide mitigation and response training for school administrators and staff.  

What kinds of policy/administrative actions can schools take to help improve school security?

The actions they can take are the following:

  • Conduct a threat (risk) assessment as just referenced.
  • Create a threat assessment team; these people will ensure the assessment is conducted and is complete, and they will acquire resources to address the risks and hazards uncovered.
  • Educate ALL (students, staff, and parents) on what to look for when it comes to potential threats, what to do if a threat is detected, and to whom they should report it.
  • Establish a liaison with law enforcement and forward leads to them as instructed.
  • The policy of “see something, say something” is critical and should apply when a threat is reported or perceived.
  • Practice handling an emergency or potential threat. Schools conduct fire drills. Now they must conduct facility safety drills.  

Can you give examples of technologies and/or techniques that could help improve school security?  

Regarding school safety, “trial and error” security purchasing is out of the question. There are numerous technologies in the physical security field to list. But how do we know which technology is appropriate for your school? Best to ask professional risk and security consultants for advice.  

Other sources of assistance include ASIS International and ATAP and other school networks. All schools and school districts are in this together. What works for one should be shared with others.  

Do you see developments in the future that could help even more?  

TAL Global does not get involved with politics; however, one solution is obvious. Eliminating firearms from our society or, at the very least, making them harder to obtain is the most significant step we can take.  

How much of a limiting factor is cost when thinking about how schools can improve security?

Cost has been a crucial factor in the past. The government is starting to finance school security because of recent incidents, which should help. Physical security is essential, but without the other two legs mentioned earlier, the stool will not stand, so putting some money into training, relying on expertise through threat assessments, and doing drills should also be funded.

Any closing thoughts or things you would like to add regarding security in general?

Some in our society believe that guns are our “right” and that anyone that wants one should have one. The young man that killed seven people in Highland Park is a perfect example of someone that should never have had a gun.  His actions weaken this argument.

In other countries where the gun culture is different, violence in general and school violence are invariably minuscule when compared with violence in the U.S.  

If we are not ready to face these differences and change our concepts about guns, we have no option but to take steps to protect the most vulnerable targets: schools, hospitals, shopping malls, and theaters.  

This will cost a lot and not just money. Our way of life will change. Every day, every entrance will screen us like that done at airports and in government buildings and courts.

 Sadly, this is the tradeoff we face if we want safety where we go to school, work, shop, or seek entertainment.

For more than 25 years, TAL Global has been working with organizations all over the world to help keep them safe.  If you’d like to improve and enhance the safety of your facility and organization, let’s talk.


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© TAL Global, 2019