Children today face greater risks than previous generations. According to the Department of Education, school shootings recently reached record highs. Although vaccines have long been required for entry, pandemics bring new fears and the reality of climate change means more such events are likely to occur in the future. Teen suicides are also rising and occurring in younger and younger individuals as technology allows bullying to spread beyond the schoolyard.
What can parents and educational professionals do to protect learners on campus and beyond? Technology can play a significant role in improving things. Are we overlooking the most important way to make schools safer?
Controlling Ingress and Egress
Stopping school shootings requires managing ingress and egress. Who can forget the recent tragedy at Uvalde, where officials suspect the gunman of entering through a door propped open with rocks? The district had gone so far as to suggest disabling the locks to make life easier for substitute teachers who lacked keys. History can only guess how many lives may have been saved had the district employed technology solutions to prevent this tragedy.
For example, schools can install keypad entry systems, allowing only designated individuals the code and eliminating the need for keys. Such programs often feature remote-control locking mechanisms so officials can lock down every door with the touch of a button should reports of an active shooter occur.
Furthermore, they can use identification technology such as biometrics to manage ingress and egress. Thumbprint tech can ensure only authorized personnel can lock classroom doors or districts could employ facial recognition to similar ends.
Today’s students face dangers from weapons brought to school, drugs and alcohol and infectious disease. Technology can help schools mitigate the risks in the following ways.
Metal detectors have long played integral roles in school safety. Although they were controversial when first introduced out of fears that they would cause unnecessary anxiety in students, most people today consider them an appropriate safeguard, no more threatening than passing through airport security.
Additionally, video surveillance cameras can quickly alert school personnel to the presence of unwanted visitors on campus and potential threats of violence. However, such innovations aren’t free from ethical considerations. Some argue facial recognition technology doesn’t work as effectively on those with dark complexions. Others note that evidence has been used to suspend students of color more frequently than their peers.
Vaping poses substantial health risks to children but is difficult for staff members to detect without the telltale signature scent of nicotine giving students away. But there are now ways they can use technology to help combat teenage nicotine addiction.
Vape detectors look similar to smoke or carbon monoxide detectors. However, they send a text notification to staff when they detect vape use nearby. Such technology promises to improve indoor air quality in schools while protecting students from conditions like popcorn lung, which are potentially life-threatening.
Infectious disease rounds out the risk list. While temperature-taking isn’t a foolproof method of halting spread, it does reduce risks.
Thermal imaging technology is imperfect and shouldn’t be used alone to determine if a student is too sick to attend class. However, staff members can use it to identify possible trouble and pair it with a handheld thermometer when making determinations.
Improving Emergency Communications
Parents deserve to know about potential trouble at school as quickly as possible. Mass messaging technology enables school officials to send real-time alerts to caregivers, updating them instantly as they receive new information.
Additionally, such tools can become vital parts of the learning process. For example, apps allow teachers to remind students and parents of upcoming exams and due dates and send homework reminders.
Furthermore, personnel need to communicate with first responders in a crisis. Many have employed the use of digital maps. After all, police won’t know where Ms. Smith’s first-grade classroom is if they get called, but these tech tools can guide them to her door.
Providing Early Interventions
Bullying remains a severe problem in schools. It contributes to the soaring rates of teen suicide, but those often affected fear reporting will make the situation worse by prompting the bully to retaliate.
Enter anonymous reporting apps. Students can download these on their cellular devices and officials can install them on district computers. With the touch of a button, they can anonymously report bullying they experience or witness, allowing officials to intervene. Those questioned have no way of knowing who filed the report.
Social media monitoring technology scours internet sites for potential threats of self-harm or harm to others. However, some argue such programs disproportionately target students of color, transforming simple misunderstandings into threats. Others say social media posts are too open to interpretation. Nevertheless, such tools may help schools identify students in crisis.
Is Technology the Most Important Way to Make Schools Safer?
Today’s students face unique dangers — it’s up to parents and educators to keep them safe. Technology may be the most important way to make schools safer. Officials shouldn’t overlook these solutions.