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School Security and Safety Product Expenditures: Which Security Products Merit Your Consideration?

December 20th, 2016 | School Security | 0 Comments

Recommended School Safety & Security Solutions for 2017

By William J. Smith & Stephanie Kent

Our firm is routinely contacted by schools and asked to evaluate products that enhance safety and security within their districts. The following article highlights products that we have evaluated that have advanced technology solutions in the K-12 and College markets.

We are not compensated or remunerated by any of the manufacturers of the products listed in this article.

According to the research company IHS Technology, K-12 schools and universities in the United States spent approximately $768 million in 2014 on video-surveillance equipment, access-control equipment and mass notification systems in order to address school security, safety and emergency management issues in our nation’s schools. IHS Technology expects expenditures in security products to climb to approximately $907 million in this current school year. While some may argue that such spending increases are a hyper reaction to constant reports of school violence and safety issues, these expenditures come at a time when both state and local budget cuts are potentially limiting certain educational opportunities for children. I would argue, however, that school security is not an area in which our schools should be compromising on budget, especially considering the 98+ school shootings that have been reported in the U.S. since January, 2015. Additionally, the Wall Street Journal has presented evidence of a direct negative correlation between reported security spending and school emergencies. A 2014 U.S. Education Department survey of approximately 1,400 public schools in the nation, 75% reported using at least one security camera (up from 61% in 2009-2010), and 82% of schools reported installing electronic notification systems (up from 63% in 2009-2010). Comparatively, reported incidents of school violence had dropped from 74% to 65% in the same time frame.

The seemingly large annual expense on school security only becomes excessive when schools are investing in sub-par products which ultimately require supplementary product purchases to be most effective. When investing in high-grade and reputable security products, schools are certainly not overspending, which begs the question:

What companies provide products and technologies that will enhance our district’s ability to respond and react to security and safety incidents?

Here are a few that we believe merit your consideration:

1. Avigilon
Avigilon Appearance Search video analytics technology is a state of the art advanced search engine software utilizes facial recognition that allows the end user to scan video storage devices and quickly locate a person or vehicle of interest across an entire school property. The Avigilon Appearance Search technology can assist school officials and first responders of incidents or potential security issues, by issuing mobile alerts that advise law enforcement and school safety committee members of an issue, so that they can immediately respond and thereby improve incident resolution. Other helpful features include computation of people count and movement patterns, especially important in places of mass gathering. This technology can also be used to increase the efficiencies of codified lockdown and shelter in place procedures by identifying the location of students, faculty, staff and visitors for evacuation and headcount purposes.

2. Social Sentinel
Social Sentinel uses propriety algorithm technologies to search the “digital cloud” that exists above our schools and communities. It analyses publicly available postings on social media venues like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. The information that is available in this public sphere can be analyzed and synthesized to protect schools and communities. Social Sentinel constantly scans public posts for suspicious terms and phrases, and immediately alerts the end user when those words are found that could impact the community. Words such as; kill, shoot, stab, bomb, and suicide would immediately prompt the system to identify the sender. Once the identity of the subject is verified, the data is immediately forwarded to school and public safety officials with authority to decide whether the posted message merits additional investigation or referral.

3. Mutualink
Mutualink is an award winning, multi-media communications platform that provides a direct link with Police, Fire, EMS, and other law enforcement entities in emergency situations. Mutualink K12 is a gateway for live voice, video, data and text communications, providing first responders with increased situational awareness in real time allowing them to respond much more rapidly to any facility threat. Mutualink’s advanced technology system (IRAPP) incorporates an all-in-one device to bridge radio, video, telephone and PA/intercom systems, in our schools and campuses. Another key feature of the Mutualink product is the ‘panic button’, which can be installed in the central office, , or installed onto smartphones as an application. Either method immediately connects the caller to law enforcement agencies and simultaneously launches the Mutualink system. Studies conducted by Mutualink’s client districts performing situational response drills reduced the time to incident resolution by forty (40) percent.

Why Should Schools Consider Purchasing Advanced Technology Products like These?

Spending on high-tech security products that assist schools in areas of Safety, Security and Emergency Management will unquestionably increase efficiencies by constantly monitoring their facilities and alerting staff and first responders of threats that can impact the safety and well- being of students, faculty, staff and visitors. These products can be a valuable tool for School Resource Officers in crime reduction and prevention, crowd control and vehicle identification. Schools can identify risks in public postings on social media to potentially prevent acts of violence including suicide. Using Mutualink’s K 12 system, schools can rapidly respond to address emergencies by linking first responders and the school or district emergency response team in real time to share vital information and decrease time to resolution.

It is my considered opinion that use of these products will prove to reduce risk and provide additional safeguards, by leveraging technologies to enhance safety, security and emergency response in our schools.

Next steps for School Administrators

For additional information on how your school can maximize the safety of your students, administrators, and staff, click here to contact American School Safety online, or call us at 1-866-531-6560 to schedule a free on-site consultation. As always, we look forward to hearing from you.

Sources
“5 of the Most Innovative Surveillance Cameras in 2015.” IFSEC Global.
Abramsky, Sasha. “The School-Security Industry Is Cashing In Big on Public Fears of Mass Shootings.” The Nation.
D’Ambrosio, Dan. “Start-up keeps eye on social media for threats.” USA Today.
“Mutualink K12 Links Schools, Responders Enhance Safety.” Business Wire.
Porter, Caroline. “Spending on School Security Rises.” Wall Street Journal.

Social Media: The New Playground for Bullies

October 6th, 2016 | Bullying | 0 Comments

Suicide is currently the third leading cause of death among our nation’s teenagers — and bullying is often a major contributing factor.

Suicide and cyberbullying photo.

By William J. Smith & Stephanie Kent

Imagine attending your child’s high school graduation and watching 100 students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. Now imagine that in every row of ten graduates, one of them has made a serious attempt at suicide? If you are one of the all-too-many parents that have neglected to take the proper precautions against bullying, that child could be yours.

Bullying and suicide

Researchers have found that students are 7–9% more likely to consider suicide when they have been bullied in school. With 17% of American students reporting being bullied 2–3 times a month or more, at least 9.5 million students in America are more likely to consider ending their young lives. According to the National Education Association, bullying has become so widespread that approximately 160,000 students do not attend school on any given day in order to avoid being bullied. That is 13 million students per year!

Why has bullying become an escalating threat to our children?

In some ways the dynamics of student social lives has not changed. Those mean cliques and lunch-money bullies have always existed. So why are the bullies of today having such devastating effects on our students? One potential explanation involves the evolving social platforms through which young people communicate and express themselves. In today’s technology-driven world, even young grade school students have begun diving into social media. Unfortunately, this form of social networking often poses a much larger threat to students than the “traditional” bullies of prior generations.

Why is cyberbullying more threatening than “traditional” bullying?

Traditional bullying may certainly have traumatizing physical, psychological and emotional effects on its victims. However, it is thought to be a more temporary phenomenon, or a shorter phase, in a student’s life. It may also be more easily eliminated by changing physical proximity to the tormentor via a change in schools or locations, or avoidance of in-person encounters with the culprit. There’s is often a point in the process of traditional bullying at which situation becomes public knowledge, prompting an authority figure to intervene. The overt nature of this more familiar form of bullying provides a deterrent towards certain unacceptable behaviors that would be easier to affect if an element of anonymity existed.

Anonymity is an enormous factor — elevating cyberbullying to a significantly more aggressive form of bullying. Easily-obtained fake e-mail accounts enable fake social media accounts. These spuriously obtained resources allow cyberbullies to believe that they can say or do anything online without fear of reprisal. Potentially devastating messages and threats may be sent almost effortlessly to targets all over the internet. There is simply no reason for a cruel individual intent on inflicting pain to filter anything they say or do through their “cyber mask.”

Additionally, this type of bullying has no time frame. Victims may experience attacks via social media throughout the day and night with little or no respite from their antagonizer. The constant and merciless onslaught can result in grievous psychological damage. Every notification received has the potential to be another crude attack on their appearance, popularity, race, religion, sexual orientation, or intelligence. Due to the complete lack of boundaries in the cybersphere, psychologists theorize that cyberbullying may have much longer-term effects on students’ psyches than the traditional means of bullying. It nearly always leads to a victim’s lowered self-esteem, heightened levels of depression — and subsequently — thoughts about suicide.

Cyberbullying has become such a widespread problem that a new term has been coined

“Cyberbullicide” refers to suicide that occurs directly or indirectly through experiences of online aggression. The term was coined in 2010 during a study of 2,000 middle school students. The research found that cyberbullying is at least as detrimental to adolescents as traditional physical bullying. Alarmingly, the National Center for Education Statistics found that 71.9% of students report being cyberbullied 1–2 times during the school year.

Cyberbullying is not a high school phenomenon

We are living in an age of tech-savvy children. Even toddlers are utilizing apps on tablets and other smart devices. According to a study of 457 randomly selected students (ages 11–15), 34.4% reported that they had been cyberbullied at least once in their short lifetimes, and 15% reported having been cyberbullied within the last 30 days.

Do not wait until your child reaches puberty to look for signs of bullying

When it comes to cyberbullying, age doesn’t matter, size doesn’t matter, popularity doesn’t matter, and appearance doesn’t matter. Many cyber bullies do not even know their victims, but it is crucial that you do if it’s your child.

There was a time the when protecting students from playground bullies was largely a teacher’s responsibility. The world has changed; and it’s a parent’s responsibility to monitor their child’s use of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and text messages. These digital platforms are the new playground; and the new bullying is more intense and potentially devastating than its predecessor. Please do not allow your child be the one in ten who makes a serious attempt at suicide because of bullying.

How to know if your child is being bullied:
  • If your child becomes angry, withdrawn, or has mood swings and behavior changes after using social media networking sites.
  • If your child becomes aggressive themselves after spending time online or after receiving an email or text messages.
  • If your child abruptly stops or limits their participation in social media networking sites.
  • If your child resists going to school or refuses to participate in after school activities.
  • If your child shuns normal social interaction with friends.
What you can do if your child is being bullied:
  • Talk with your child when you suspect they are a victim of cyber bullying or harassment.
  • Empathize with their situation and tell them you will support them and take action to stop the cyberbullying and harassment.
  • Ask your child to allow you to monitor the social media networking sites to determine the identity of the cyberbully or bullies.
  • If you discover cyberbullying, on line teasing, tormenting or any harassment, document the findings and save them for evidentiary purposes.
  • Most school districts have adopted policies and procedures to deal with cyberbullying and harassment and document them in their district’s student handbook.
  • Determine who needs to be contacted, School Administrators, and/or Law Enforcement and call them immediately to report the cyberbullying and harassment.
  • Report the cyberbullying and harassment to the social media sites that are being used to bully and harass your child. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other popular sites have strict rules that forbid cyberbullying, harassment, and other aberrant behaviors by users.
Next steps for School Administrators

For additional information on how your school can maximize the safety of your students, administrators, and staff, click here to contact American School Safety online, or call us at 1-866-531-6560 to schedule a free on-site consultation. As always, we look forward to hearing from you.

Sources
Jerry Will and Clim Clayburn. “The Psychological Impact of Cyber Bullying.” University Business.
Valerie, Strauss. “New data on bullying: 17% report regular abuse.” The Washington Post.
“11 Facts About Bullying.” DoSomething.org
“Bullying-Suicide Link Explored in New Study by Researchers at Yale.” Yale News.
“Nation’s educators continue push for safe, bully-free environments.” National Education Association.
Kim YS, Leventhal B. “Bullying and suicide. A review.” PubMed. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
“Bullying Among Middle School and High School Students — Massachusetts, 2009” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.