Security Theater, Threshold Flow, and Inclusion

Beginning in January 2017, DSE will put into place a new dismissal procedure. The purpose of this procedure is to monitor that our students are released appropriately and safely.  Due to safety concerns of the number of adults that walk up to collect children at dismissal, DSE is implementing a new procedure beginning January 3, 2017.

 Children may be picked up at the south end of campus (the last classroom in the south end of campus/kinder wing), which is called “The Tiger Lair”.  If you would like to walk up to collect your child, you will indicate Tiger Lair  with your homeroom teacher.  You will wait for your child outside the door .  A staff member will be there to greet you.  School personnel will take your name/identification and call for your child who is waiting in room 14.  Your child will come meet you.  Please use the crosswalk when arriving/departing the Tiger Lair.  It is essential that parents bring their ID.

“Due to safety concerns of the number of adults that walk up to collect children at dismissal.”

What safety concerns? Are adults assumed predators? Instead of sitting in line in our cars, some parents choose to walk up to the front of the school where our kids congregate, chat, and wait for the signal for parents to pick them up. Parents also congregate and chat while waiting. Parents and kids chatting out under the sun seems like a healthy thing, a thing resembling community. We parents are supposed to bring colored signs when picking up our kids, but many don’t bother. A piece of construction paper is not receipt for a soul. Out in the sun where we all know each other, we don’t need brightly colored slips of fear.

Now, instead of being outside, kids will be sequestered in a room and parents will be carded. This is security theater. I avoid places that make me show ID. Fear ratcheting drives away contribution and collaboration. Security theater harms accessibility & inclusion. FUD makes for bad threshold flow.

Stop investing in fear, and start resisting it. Instead of pursuing an education on privacy, passwords, and online identity, our PTA invites the FBI to scare people with predators. Instead of welcoming parents to school, we card them and treat them like they’re at the DMV. Even when we show up regularly and everyone knows our name, we parents are carded. This is not an environment for contribution and collaboration. This is not community. Threshold flow matters. Our schools are locked down, and contribution and community are locked out.

The outdoor pick up now requires an ID. If you forget your ID, a murky voucher process is triggered. I stood in the rain with my kid one day waiting for someone to engage their humanity as people who know me and my son pretended they didn’t. Up the chain the voucher escalated until someone with sufficient power attested to me being me. What of others who aren’t known as well as I?

I no longer pick up my kids from school. I have no desire to enter DSES at all. The DSES threshold flow says to me, “Go away. Not welcome. Not trusted. Presumed harmful.” How did this latest bit of theater come to be? The communications I’ve read offer no reason. Questions…

  • Is this policy public and online?
  • What forms of ID are accepted?
  • Can the ID be expired?
  • What is the voucher flow?
  • Did a particular incident contribute to the policy?
  • Would the policy have prevented that incident?
  • Was any study of unintended consequences and affect on contribution done?
  • What statistics support this reaction?

Blanket security theater of this type does little to help the most common abduction situation–a custody battle. In those cases, direct communication between the custodial parent and educators is what works. There is no need to treat all parents like potential criminals.

Stop being so afraid.

The AMBER Alert system was designed to recover endangered missing children through the solicitation of citizen assistance via swift public announcements. Rigorous empirical support for AMBER Alert’s effectiveness has been lacking, but since its inception program advocates and public safety officials have lauded the system’s ability to “save lives”, often basing their optimism on AMBER Alert “success” stories. However, in this paper quantitative and qualitative analyses of 333 publicized and celebrated AMBER Alert “successes” suggest AMBER Alerts rarely result in the retrieval of abducted children from clearly “life-threatening” situations, and that most of the publicized successes involved relatively benign abductors and unthreatening circumstances. The routine conflation of such apparently mundane cases with rare dramatic successes by AMBER Alert advocates suggests popular portrayals of AMBER Alert are overly sanguine. The potentially negative effects of this and policy implications are discussed.

Source: An empirical examination of AMBER Alert ‘successes’

These are encouraging statistics — but also deeply misleading, according to some of the only outside scholars to examine the system in depth. In the first independent study of whether Amber Alerts work, a team led by University of Nevada criminologist Timothy Griffin looked at hundreds of abduction cases between 2003 and 2006 and found that Amber Alerts — for all their urgency and drama — actually accomplish little. In most cases where they were issued, Griffin found, Amber Alerts played no role in the eventual return of abducted children. Their successes were generally in child custody fights that didn’t pose a risk to the child. And in those rare instances where kidnappers did intend to rape or kill the child, Amber Alerts usually failed to save lives.

Source: Amber Alerts As Security Theater – Schneier on Security

Intense interest in disturbing child abductions by the mass media, public safety organizations, and the public has helped sustain a socially constructed mythology and sporadic “moral panic” about the presumed pervasiveness of this threat to children. The result has often been reactionary “memorial” legislation enacted in response to sensational cases. A recent example is the America’s Missing Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alert system, which is designed to interrupt serious child kidnappings in progress by soliciting citizen tips to help officials quickly rescue victims. Drawing on available empirical evidence and theoretical considerations, the authors contend that AMBER Alert has not achieved and probably cannot achieve the ambitious goals that inspired its creation. In fact, AMBER Alert is arguably an example of what could be called crime control theater. It is a socially constructed “solution” to a socially constructed problem, enabling public officials to symbolically address an essentially intractable threat. Despite laudable intentions, AMBER Alert exemplifies how crime control theater can create unintended problems, such as public backlash when the theatrical policy fails and a distorted public discourse about the nature of crime. Considerations for the future of AMBER Alert in particular, and the concept of crime control theater in general, are discussed.

Source: Child Abduction, AMBER Alert, and Crime Control Theater

If the Amber Alert were an isolated instance, its low-cost might justify a program that creates “the appearance, but not the fact, of crime control.” But Amber Alerts are symptomatic of a broader trend in this area – focusing harsh laws and public attention on rare, isolated cases of stranger rape when most child molestation and child abductions involve family members or people the kid knows and trusts.

By focusing so much attention on protecting kids from a threat that’s rare and failing to educate the public on more common threats to kids, IMO the pols looking to grandstand as “tuff” on child molesters end up harming security. That was certainly the case last year when Texas ramped up penalties for child molesters so high that victim rights advocates fear families won’t report child abuse – the focus on strangers instead of more common threats made kids less safe in that instance.

Security theater is important and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand because people want and need to feel safe. But this particular brand of security theater makes people feel less safe than they really are by hyping threats the public will rarely face.

Source: Amber Alerts and ‘Security Theater’

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