Everyone wants the schools in their community to be safe. We can all agree on this. Yet, safety is often taken for granted. For decades, schools were considered a safe haven where caring teachers taught and young children learned. Even when circumstances in the world outside were chaotic, schools were a safe place.
The times have changed.
The good news is that schools are responding to today’s safety and security challenges.
Since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook, almost 90% of school districts have made changes to their facilities or security policies to make schools safer. In 2016 alone, $2.7 billion was spent on school security systems. In 2017, that number will jump to almost $5 billion. As a result of these changes made by school districts, technologies are emerging to help schools with their mission of keeping schools safe.
Districts need to work with not only industry experts but also other districts to stay up to date on what technologies are working best for other school districts and what will work best for them. Each district needs to assess its specific risks, and then determine which technologies will best meet its needs.
Some technologies Districts should consider when assessing their schools:
- Access controls: 93% of schools control access to their buildings during school hours, including locking and monitoring entrances. Except for the main entrance, doors should not be accessible from the outside. Today, technology allows schools the ability to secure their main entrance with a camera, intercom, and buzzer controlled door.
- Visitor management systems: While many schools require visitors to sign in at the front desk, 80% of schools still use pen and paper to track visitors. A visitor management system lets administrators know who is in the building, why they are there and if they belong in the school.
- Security cameras: Over 90% of K-12 schools report having security cameras and video surveillance equipment installed on campuses. Half of the schools without security cameras plan to purchase cameras within the next three years. Video surveillance equipment is used at school entrances as a part of a controlled access system as well as throughout campuses to monitor everything from theft to violent behavior.
- Emergency management systems: Almost all schools have a written plan in place in the event of an emergency. Students and staff participate in everything from fire drills to active shooter scenarios. In 2017, Districts need to consider emergency management systems which will increasingly replace paper plans. Emerging technology in this space includes emergency management mobile applications that handle everything from emergency procedures and building plans to reunification.
Like most areas of our lives today, technology can help but only if you know what works best for you. If your district or school has not conducted a risk assessment regarding emergencies, consider doing so as soon as possible. The next steps are to implement standard procedures for all buildings and technologies that help you secure your campuses. Above all else, schools need to be safe, secure places where students can learn.
Dan Trepanier serves as an Advisory Board Member for Safe and Sound Schools and Vice President of Sales & Marketing of Raptor Technologies, a national leader in K-12 Integrated School Safety Technologies. Dan is passionate about keeping schools safe and works with national safety organizations and in schools across the country for safer schools.
Earlier this month, Safe and Sound Schools participated in the Understanding the Digital Disconnect – Parents, Teens and the Internet Twitter chat hosted by stopthinkconnect.org.
Modern day technology has drastically changed the ways in which we consume and relay information. Today’s media and communication landscape is much different than what we experienced as kids. As a result, today’s parents are faced with the growing challenge of raising tech savvy kids in a digital world without having lived through a “connected” childhood themselves.
After a summer of reconnecting with my kids, I fear losing them again to the stresses and digital social lives that comes with back to school. Sure, the internet and the growing number of social media outlets provide our kids with an opportunity to explore the world and socialize with friends, but the thought of cyberbullying, predators, or losing interest in the real world is frightening for many parents.
The #ChatSTC provided some good insights, whether your kids are new to social/digital media, or if you just need a refresher after the summer. Key tips from the chat include:
- Talk to your kids. With the back to school season underway, a family tech talk discussion lends itself to perfect opportunity to remind your kids about the dangers of sharing personal information, location, and other types of content that may give predators insight into their life.
- Explain the “why.” Parents can help students understand the reasoning behind tech/digital rules and/or restrictions by maintaining open dialogue, explaining their rationale, and helping them see the consequences of certain actions with supporting online news stories, and periodically checking in.
- Involve your schools. Today’s schools can help children navigate the digital world safely by teaching healthy concepts of digital use and serving as a resource for parents who would like more information about the digital disconnect their child may be experiencing. Ask your students how they are using and talking about tech in the classroom. In addition, your child’s school counselor, psychologist, and tech specialist offer additional resources and insights to help bridge the digital divide.
You can browse below if you’d like to explore more content related to the Twitter chat.
In the years since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012, many have been working to improve school safety. School communities across the country are reexamining measures, plans, and procedures in place to better prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. As part of these efforts, schools nationwide are looking for tools that help.
Many are looking to the growing number of apps and software technologies now available to assist school emergency preparedness. It is not surprising that this trend has emerged, with smart phone sales exceeding 1.2 billion units in 2014 according to GFK. Companies like CrisisGo, Guardly Corp., Guard911, Punch Alert Technologies, Elerts, Livesafe, and NaviGate PreparedTM, among others, have developed software that school communities can use to better prepare for and communicate during emergencies.
The technology integrated in these tools is not only supportive of the school community during a crisis, but also to first response teams. With interactive maps and floor plans available in many programs, first responders can quickly locate entry points and reduce the time it takes to respond to an emergency. As well, school communities can train staff and conduct drills using app technology. First responders can use apps to readily access emergency information, practice and refine procedures with students and staff, and reunify a school community following practice or true emergency.
Many school districts have started to use app technology for emergency preparedness and practice. Lake Forest Schools in Illinois is implementing an app to serve as a panic button for classroom teachers. Davies County Schools in Indiana now uses an app to alert first responders of emergencies, and may expand their app use to communicate internally as well. Royalton Schools in Minnesota is using an app to replace its 40-page crisis management plan.
One concern some community members have expressed with the new technology is protecting private and critical information like student attendance and schedules. In counties like Lake Forest, school board members have decided that the privacy risk is worth the security trade off. Several app companies now offer government level security protection of critical information with their technology.
As exciting as these innovations are, it is important to consider that tools and technology are only part of a comprehensive approach to school safety. Successful school safety requires education, training, innovation, and collaboration to keep students and staff safe!