Technology is Great! But…

by | Jun 25, 2024 | Gary's Blog

Ensuring Safety and Security in Schools

Technology is great, but how do we factor human behavior into school safety and security?

The importance of using technology as a tool in school safety and not a crutch.

Human behavior and School Safety

I was blessed with a Dad I did not always appreciate in my youth.  I was often taught lessons, not by him telling me what to do or not to do, but by clever sayings I did not fully understand until I learned my lessons.  On more than one occasion he told me, “Don’t let your alligator mouth get your tadpole tail in trouble!”  I think of this often when I hear vendors pushing safety technology in the K12 world.  With a nod to the wisdom of my Dad, I often think, “Don’t expect your safety technology solutions to compensate for the lack of good sense of the staff!”

Safety technology can enhance school safety, but it’s not a substitute for responsible behavior and good judgment from the staff. Even the most advanced safety measures can’t account for human error or negligence. It’s crucial for schools to prioritize both technological solutions and comprehensive training programs to ensure the safety of their students and staff.

I stopped in at a school to meet with the principal.  The school system uses a great product to screen visitors before allowing them into the building. I pushed the notification button and did not hear any notification sound. The secretary just happened to look up and waved me in.  The door was already unlocked.  When I asked her if the system was not working correctly, she said, “No, the parents find it annoying and so do I, so I just don’t use it.”  To compound the situation, the principal told me he knows she does this even though he told her it was against district policy.  He stated he would tell her again not to disable the system.  It sounds to me like she needs a formal write up.  How often does a person need to be reminded this is often the first layer of defense in school safety?

The difference that human diligence can make

Is there a difference between not using a system and being ineffective when using a system? I visited five different school buildings in three districts in one week.  On Monday through Thursday, I pressed the notification button, and the door was unlocked without the secretary asking who I was or why I was coming to their building.  

On Friday, I pressed the notification button and was greeted with, “Good morning.  Welcome to Anywhere Elementary School.  How may I help you?” I gave her my name, the name of my company, and told her I had a 0900 appointment with the principal.  She asked me to standby while she checked the principal’s schedule.  My name was on her calendar, and I was allowed in the building. When I asked her what would have happened if the principal forgot to put me on her schedule and the secretary said I would not have been allowed into the building until she talked to the principal.

 If we look at the failures of the incident at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, exterior doors were not locked, and a teacher claimed his classroom door did not always lock. He never told the custodian, and no work order was ever made to fix the lock.  The school had a system used to notify staff of threats, but it was plagued by false alarms due to frequent immigration bailouts in the area.  Even without the false alarm fatigue, the system failed on the day of the tragedy because of faulty Wi-Fi in the school.

technology in school safety

Technology plays an important role in school safety.  It is often a force multiplier.  I am not against technology, but I am against companies who often court school board members with promises of solving all their safety issues while ignoring the human factor in school safety.  While schools implement various safety technologies to protect students and staff, failures can occur due to human error or other factors.

Here are some examples:

Failure to Monitor Security Cameras

Many schools have installed security cameras to monitor campus activities and deter potential threats. However, if personnel fail to monitor these cameras regularly or neglect to act on suspicious behavior observed through them, the effectiveness of the technology is compromised.

Inadequate Response to Alarm Systems

Alarm systems, such as fire alarms or intruder alarms, are crucial for alerting occupants to emergencies. However, if staff and students do not respond promptly or follow established protocols when alarms are triggered, the intended safety measures may not be fully realized.

Faulty Access Control Systems

Access control systems, including keycard readers or electronic locks, are designed to restrict entry to authorized individuals and enhance campus security. However, if these systems experience technical malfunctions or if users fail to secure doors properly, unauthorized access can still occur.

Misuse of Communication Systems

Schools often use communication technologies, such as intercoms or mass notification systems, to disseminate critical information during emergencies. However, if these systems are misused or if staff and students do not take messages seriously, the effectiveness of communication efforts may be compromised.

Lack of Training on Safety Technologies

Even if schools invest in advanced safety technologies, their effectiveness can be limited if staff and students are not adequately trained in how to use them. Without proper training, individuals may not know how to respond to alerts, operate security systems, or utilize safety features effectively.

Addressing these challenges requires not only investing in the latest safety technologies but also prioritizing training, regular drills, and establishing clear protocols for responding to emergencies. Additionally, ongoing evaluation and refinement of safety measures are essential to adapt to evolving threats and ensure the protection of everyone on campus.

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How does your school balance technology and the human element to enhance safety and security?

what challenges do you and your staff face implementing technology into safety efforts?


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