Recent events have elevated the importance of securing schools and providing students with a safe environment for learning. All too often “safety” invokes images of uniformed guards, metal detectors and active shooter response plans. Although these are important aspects, response should never be the only preparation; prevention and planning will hopefully render response unnecessary. Safety experts have long noted that intelligence and planning are the crucial components of a cohere safety plan. The goal is to predict and prevent. In this piece, we argue that technology is a crucial component of a safe school plan, and the school technology officers should become aware of the daily elements that enhance school safety and the technologies that underlie them. In short, safety officers are charged with response to incidents, but technology leaders should also be tasked with providing technology to prevent these incidents in the first place.
Technological elements of school safety
The challenge of school safety today is to keep schools open and inviting, yet provide the necessary safe environment to enhance learning. School safety technology must combine both subtlety and effectiveness. The use of hardware and software must be combined to create the safe environment without placing schools behind impenetrable walls. We argue that there are 5 essential elements of a technology plan to enhance school safety, and that these elements must be provided with special attention to the unique features of a school environment. These elements are
- Establishing identity
- Controlling Access
- Creating a culture of accountability
- Creating a systematic process to improve student behavior
- Developing the data techniques to identify vulnerabilities and enhance safety
Who belongs here?
The question of who belongs in a school building is essential for safety, but also a more complex one that initially appears. Clearly students and staff belong in school, but it is also true that parents, visitors and community members also belong in schools, although with different restrictions, both in time and location. The question is made more complicated by the inherent nature of schools. Even a modest size district can have 10,000 students and staff, a dozen or more buildings and a variety of reasons for being in schools. Large districts can be 10 or 20 times that size. Furthermore, who belongs where is not a fixed question. Students can change enrollment in schools, and subsequently parents can also see their “identity” attached to different schools. The net result is that any identity management solution for schools must be significantly more flexible than standard commercial solutions, and must integrate both “hard” tokens, such as cards of FOBs, and digital identity, which is often derived from some identity provider, such as Active Directory or LDAP, and the student and HR information systems. Standard commercial identity issuance and solutions are often unable to capture the complexity and specifics needs of school-focused solutions that are thus necessary for establishing and managing identity as well as enterprise data management.
Accessing school grounds – control and openness
Access to school building and resources has changed over the years. In the past, buildings were often left open to help students and staff when they need specific information or a place to work. Unfortunately, over the years, this access has been abused. It’s now in the best interest of the school to have an eye on who is entering what building and for what reason to prevent issues from arising. This can be achieved from utilizing technology with smart ID cards. With just a tap of their smart ID card, students and staff will be able to enter and exit a school building when needed, along with restricted access if necessary. This process helps school administrators gain valuable insight to when and where an incident may occur, along with who was involved. The more information received and proper enterprise data management,received leads to better decision-making processes, helping the overall climate and culture of the school grounds. Accountability is then presented upon students and staff to use the facilities accordingly.
When sensitive information is handled by the wrong personnel, it can complicate a lot of issues when a problem arises. Accountability is an essential part of proper data management with students, teachers, and administrators alike. If a school were to utilize smart technology, each individual will be held accountable for their actions. For example: If a student were to arrive late at school, once taping their smart ID card, the system will mark the student present and automatically send a notification to the parents of that student. This helps school personnel to be able to continue their main duties on campus while giving parents a piece of mind that their student is safe at school.
Whether a school has an open or closed campus policy, officials should still know who is present on campus, even if they are new or reoccuring. If no one is aware, then who is held accountable? This is where smart technology, such as a visitor management system comes into play. If a school were to utilize this system, they will be able to funnel new visitors into a specific entry point into the campus so that no one gets by the school officials. A visitor management system can also help flag at-risk visitors with the swipe of their state-wide ID, cross checking with a registered sex-offender database. Once their ID is ran, all their information that is necessary for the school will be stored in a database so that if that visitor comes around again, officials will know because of proper data management.
Students today are dealing with a similar, yet different set of obstacles in life that affect their behavior. Aside from the pressures of succeeding in education, other pressures such as bullying can have a drastic change on a student’s health. This is why there needs to be a process in place to be able to track and document a student’s behavioral problems to ensure students can receive proper treatment and continue their road to educational success. If a school implements smart technology toward their student’s health, your school can drastically improve the culture it’s emitting. This is where an Alternative Behavior Educator (ABE) comes into play. This is a system for teachers, counselors, and school officials to document student behavior in the correct manner, so that no matter at what time, when access to a students history is necessary, the information is all there to make the correct decision moving forward. With powerful data-drive reports, integrated student rewards, and monitoring, a student’s behavior will only improve over time, rather than decrease.
Using data for safety
A student’s safety is first and foremost when it comes to your school. In today’s technological world, there are multitude of issues that can arise, so how do we prepare? The answer is simple, proper data management. With proper data management, you have an efficient process in place to house all the necessary information when an issue arises on or off school grounds. Over time, when data is collected, such as attendance, new visitors and behavioral issues with students, your reports just got a lot more powerful with data-driven facts. With clear reports, you will be able to make strong, data-driven decisions to aid in your school’s quest for safety, success and climate.
ScholarChip is an all-in-one, platform solution to help reduce school threats and address the important issues surrounding school safety and proper data management. Data from students, faculty, and stakeholders are leveraged to manage school access, attendance, and behavior management through the platform tools to increase safety and promote the campus climate schools are looking for.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can benefit from smart technology in order to make smarter decisions and utilize enterprise data management, feel free to reach out to ScholarChip today for a 1-on-1 strategy sessions with one of our solutions experts!