School Guardian Programs: A Psychological Perspective

School Guardian Programs: A Psychological Perspective
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2020-09-15
Unit 1Slide Deck: School Guardian Programs
Unit 2Transcript: School Guardian Programs
Unit 3Workbook: School Guardian Programs
Unit 4Recording: School Guardian Programs

Despite opposing opinions and stances on many factors surrounding school shootings, if there’s one thing that the entire population can agree on it, it is that the carnage has got to stop. Various efforts are being studied, considered, and implemented across the country, and just one of these is the School Guardian Program (SGP).

Dr. Grant McDougall’s discussion focuses on the pros and cons of the program, the experience, and vital considerations when implementing it. Dr. McDougall is a nationally board-certified counselor and is a board member of the National Sheriff’s Association’s Psychological Section. He is a provider of psychological services for law enforcement agencies within Florida, and owns Southeastern Counseling and Consultation which serves first responder and law enforcement agencies.

Specifics covered on this session are:

  • What a school guardian is – their role, who qualifies as such, and their capabilities.
  • A glimpse into who are mandated and may be armed in US school systems.
  • The beginnings of the school guardian program following the school shootings in the US.
  • The trend on school guardian programs and how schools across the US are acclimating to this initiative.
  • The circumstances that gave rise to the inception of school guardian programs.
  • The purpose of SGPs to enhance safety, improve response time to incidents, and address insufficient funding for security within the schools.
  • Positions for supporting SGPs in terms of the voluntary nature of the program, harm mitigation, empowering the teachers, coping with insufficient manpower, and reducing response time.
  • Positions against school guardian programs that raise the danger of having firearms available within the premises, the possibility of human error, and sufficiency of training and abilities of the appointed school guardian.
  • A glimpse into Florida’s Senate Bill 3070 which laid out the guidelines on the state’s school guardian programs and the requirements for the candidates.
  • The important components that must be considered and performed to ensure that school guardians are physically, mentally, and psychologically prepared for the responsibility.
  • Psychological concerns to take into account as:
    • The need for constant evaluation to address the probability of events or situations that could impact the ability to perform the role of a school guardian.
    • Extraordinarily difficult situations where it would be difficult to predict behavior in real-life versus performance in a controlled environment/training.
    • The engagement triad which makes the task of confronting a shooter who is a minor and the school guardian may personally know tremendously difficult.
  • The critical role of a validated assessment tool and the clinician to appropriately diagnose mental disorders and understand the demands of the role to best screen candidates.
  • The importance of regular scenario-based training and psychological screening to ensure that the school guardians’ skills and mindset are suited to the demands of the job.

Questions from the audience were about:

  • The trends states and schools are doing in the SGPs and how COVID is impacting this.
  • How funding considerations shape schools’ approach to security and SGPs.
  • The sampling used in one of the cited studies.
  • The types of assessments that may be included in the evaluation for school guardians.
  • The possibility of having guns on campus to elicit trauma response.
  • School districts dissolving SRO programs.
  • What happens next upon the endorsement and appointment of a school guardian.


Audience Comments

  • “Learning about the extensive training that is required for individuals to become school guardians. And also learning more about the pros and cons of this program.” — Amber
  • “Reasons why and why not to have a school guardian program. Thank you for your expertise.” — Roseann
  • “Thank you, great information. I always appreciated all the learning.” — Maria
  • “I really enjoyed hearing about the different programs that are being used to protect our children. I really feel that these programs are beneficial.” — Brittany
  • “Presenting the pros and cons in addition to qualifications (general as well as best practices) was helpful.” — Carrie
  • “So many Pros and Cons to School Guardianship Programs. Loved that he presented them all instead of just picking one side and pushing his opinion and not exposing the other side.” — Jason
  • “Excellent topic. Speaker has excellent knowledge of the subject. This is a tough topic for communities.” — Robert


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