Managing School Safety with Smart Technology

Schools are a safe place. Over the past quarter-century, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, incidents of violence on school grounds have been on the decline. However, the statistics provide little comfort when yet another school shooting becomes the headline. These horrific acts seem to occur with alarming regularity and randomness, driving fear and forcing school administrators to reevaluate their security plans and assure the community they are effectively managing school safety. Most schools, statistically, will never have to face the tragedy of a mass shooting, but school leaders need to secure buildings against that possibility and develop policies to protect students and personnel from more common threats such as lost students, bullying and violence.

Media reports of targeted school attacks are usually met with renewed efforts to further “harden” schools against outside intruders. School security is a multi-billion dollar industry as districts add surveillance devices, access control systems, and armed resource officers. Despite these measures, the rate at which targeted violent attacks occur has not decreased. Some studies suggest that adding overt security may make schools less safe by creating a negative, fearful school climate. Less obvious security measures may be more effective. Smart technology that allows communication between multiple IT products is changing the way districts monitor activities, assesses threats and secures buildings. This technology offers proactive solutions to a district’s security needs while maintaining a learning-friendly environment.

Outdated Systems Pose a Security Risk

The advent of microcomputers in the 1980s allowed schools to begin streamlining data management with computerized student information databases, electronic grade books, and software to record attendance. Districts invested in and upgraded these platforms as technology and budgets allowed. Many schools continue to work with older technology using different systems for administrative functions, communications, student directory information, attendance records, and behavior reports.

A new generation of educators has been brought up using intuitive, user-friendly interfaces and although new teachers are extremely literate in computer use, legacy software requires distinct training and requires teachers allocate blocks of time for data entry, taking them away from their students. The first few minutes of each class period, when a teacher should be setting the stage for the day’s lesson, is spent with the teacher instead calling roll and manually entering attendance information into a desktop computer. A student arriving to class late requires a teacher return to her desk, re-open the attendance program, and change the student’s status from absent to tardy. Typically, the teacher must navigate a different system for entering grades and a third system for requisitioning supplies or requesting a personal day. Manually entered data is subject to human error, and the corrupted data skews reports necessary for funding and decision-making. Smart technology solutions can streamline operations, simplify data collection and provide actionable information to those charged with managing school safety.

Smart IDs Automate Attendance and Provide Real-Time Data

Smart ID cards help automate attendance. Students check themselves into school by tapping their ID cards to card readers positioned at the school’s entrance. Automated attendance systems relieve teachers of the task and hold students accountable for their behavior; the responsibility for recording attendance becomes theirs. Issuing smart ID cards to faculty and staff to replace low-tech laminated badges allows administrators and other school personnel to know, in real time, who is in the building. Additionally, automating attendance improves data accuracy and provides complete data sets necessary to identify security risks such as chronic absenteeism.

Smart Card Technology – How it Works

Smart ID cards are an upgrade to cards that utilize barcodes and magnetic strips and remedy some of the problems associated with these older technologies. Bar codes lack durability and may be forged; magnetic strips require longer processing times and cannot rapidly check-in a large group of cardholders. Smart ID cards utilize RFID technology. A chip embedded in the card communicates a unique identification number to a card reader, which then establishes a connection to relevant data on a cloud-based server.

Most smart ID cards use a passive tag. This means the card can only be read when tapped or inserted into a card reader. The card itself has no power source. It cannot provide any information on its own, and it does not generate a signal that may be read by a remote device.

A Smart Visitor Management System

Parents, substitutes, vendors and other guests arrive at a school’s entrance throughout the day. Sign-in sheets and stick-on, hand-printed name tags do little to ensure that it is safe to let these individuals enter. A smart visitor management system screens visitors by scanning a driver’s license. By integrating the visitor management system with information concerning orders of protection, parental custody issues, and sex offender registry data, those who pose a threat will be stopped at the door. Visitor badges are printed using driver’s license information, and a badge may be scanned when the visitor leaves to update data on the building’s occupants.

Secure Door Access and Remote Lockdowns

Installing card readers at doors throughout the building gives administrators an increased level of control over security. An individual’s smart ID allows or denies access to particular rooms or areas in the building based on the individual’s pre-set profile. This access is controlled from a remote command center, and profiles may be fine-tuned to grant and bar access by time of day. All data is stored remotely and may be changed from a central dashboard. An individual door, or all doors, may be locked down with a single command.

Mobile Applications Extend the Reach of IT Systems

A school’s responsibility for its students extends beyond the buildings into the school’s yard, its athletic fields and onto buses. The Internet of Things has created an era of hyper-connectivity that allows school personnel access to a district’s attendance and other systems using mobile devices. This capability makes it less likely students are lost or left behind on buses and mobile smart technology can reduce the confusion that often accompanies evacuations and other emergencies when accounting for students is critical.

Monitor Buildings from a Central Dashboard

District and building administrators have access to real-time information from an Administration Portal. Attendance data, visitor information, room access, behavior issues, and even POS system data provide school leaders with a comprehensive overview of a school’s status. Complete, accurate data sets and powerful report creation tools help identify problem areas and facilitate decision-making for managing school safety.

ScholarChip is an all-in-one, platform solution to help reduce school threats and address the important issues surrounding school safety. 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.

With smart technology, districts can streamline operations, better secure buildings against intruders and collect accurate data to identify security threats and inform decisions.

To learn more about how you can implement smart technology to your school, feel free to reach out to ScholarChip today for a 1-on-1 walkthrough!