Ara Bagdasarian, Founder, ZeroNow | Co-Founder and Former CEO, Omnilert
Guy Grace, Vice Chairman, Partner Alliance for Safer Schools
Jeff Kelly, Director of K-12 Solutions, Mutualink
Jake Stauch, Director of Product, Verkada
Dr. Lance Ford, Zoom Room Educator
There are many facets to campus security and safety — COVID precautions, school shootings, student mental health concerns, building access control, emergency communications — but one thread that unites them all is technology. Carahsoft hosted a three-day series exploring the performance, cost-saving and security benefits of today’s leading education technology solutions for K-12 and higher education institutions. Each day, attendees heard from industry-leading experts on the benefits of A Holistic Approach to Student Safety, Putting the Student Experience First and The Changing Face of IT Security in Education. Contributors shared their best practices, innovative approaches and perspectives to help develop and incorporate the latest IT solutions that are modernizing education.
Experts challenged attendees to consider topics focused on student safety and what plans educators can put in place to ensure they are providing a more holistic approach to protection in schools. “How can we prevent bad actors?” “Do we have the ability to detect a threat early?” “Can we respond to an emergency situation in a timely manner?” “If in the case of an unfortunate disaster, what is our recovery plan?” These are all questions schools must be ready to answer and act on in the event of compromised student and faculty safety. Though most schools already have plans in place, there are many instances where technology can be further implemented to better support schools.
Safe and Sound Schools
Where should schools start when they begin to think about safety infrastructure? Panelists suggest building on existing foundational efforts, conducting risk assessments and having a proactive, cohesive plan. After forming a unified team of safety practitioners, such as law enforcement, school security staff and school counselors, members should create an emergency action plan and determine areas of responsibility for mitigating violent situations. These steps can be streamlined by use of automation within a response strategy.
In the event of lock down, four critical actions must take place to ensure safety:
- Threat assessment
- Mass notification
- Situational awareness
What holds these operations in place is automation and interoperability within security and technology systems. A cohesive, unified system can reduce manual interference during a high-stress situation and allow technology to play an imperative role in keeping schools safe. Institutions’ IT teams should make sure all security systems are accessible through one platform to those that need it. Technologies such as accessibility controls, video surveillance and analytics work to enhance early detection of bad actors or trespassers, enabling quick response from law enforcement. Security systems should also be tested regularly to ensure they work properly during an emergency. Additionally, any unified security system should have the versatility to work for a wide range of situations and hazards, such as COVID-19 management.
Adopting new security technology can be daunting and prioritizing a holistic approach to manage mental health, behavioral and cultural issues can take time and budget, but student experience and safety must come first. Key factors to reducing some of these challenges are to begin with a quality plan and security strategy, ensuring all elements of it are accessible to those that need it and automating as much as possible for the fastest reaction to any situation.
A Holistic Approach to School Violence Prevention
Typically, school safety is only made a priority after a tragedy has occurred. In the case of gun violence, it automatically becomes a political issue, when instead, schools should continually take a proactive, holistic approach to violence prevention, detection, response and recovery, ensuring their systems are automated and interoperable.
To begin, the education community should pay attention to the current cultural trends surrounding its students and faculty and learn how those can become internalized to impact mental health. Some early signs of distress from a potential perpetrator can surface online or through an in-person leakage of a threat, or expressions of isolation, anxiety or depression. Identifying these behaviors and mitigating them at the start is a critical aspect of prevention.
Because these early signs will not always be caught, detection of the formulated plans to ill-intent is crucial. The most important time to act in an emergency situation is immediately, as incidents may only last a few short moments. Inbound threat reporting systems, for example, such as text alerts and phone applications make it easily accessible for community members to “see something, say something.” Physical security infrastructure should be automated to immediately support multiple tactics of notification like access control systems, emergency notification systems, surveillance cameras, panic buttons, alarm systems and IoT devices. Automation plays the most key role in this environment as an emotional human reaction to the active situation can lead to costly mistakes.
At this point, administrators, faculty, emergency responders, law enforcement and other stakeholders should already have met and discussed their plan of response if violence does occur. Critical steps of response include automated communication to these parties and the public through multimodal notifications to classrooms and smart boards, and tailoring information to the proper audience like notifying parents via Twitter or the school’s website. Strategies like video management, digital signage, alarm systems, automated locking and access mechanisms can create a more controlled area to evacuate students and faculty from buildings safely. Ultimately, technology and physical security in an active school event can significantly minimize the need for recovery.
A Safer Environment for All
In a crisis, automation, interoperable security and efficient notification systems can make all the difference in stopping a violent situation before it escalates. Schools should be fortresses to ensure safety. To achieve that security, creating a detailed preparedness plan and investing in the right technology for institutions is critical not only for students’ protection but also to maintain a productive learning environment.
IT leaders from ZeroNow, Omnilert, Mutualink, Verkada, Partner Alliance for Safer Schools and Zoom can help you further explore innovative ways that enhancements in technology, tools and infrastructure can help keep your students safe both in and out of the classroom. Visit Carahsoft’s resource center to view the on-demand sessions from EdTech Talks 2022 and to learn more about our featured education technology providers.