Michigan schools race to increase safety with high tech and mental health |  Michigan Bridge

Michigan schools race to increase safety with high tech and mental health | Michigan Bridge

At East Lansing Public Schools, Superintendent Dori Leyko is waiting for her safety assessments from Russell’s company to be completed before deciding what to do with flexible $400,000 school safety funding.

“There’s a whole continuum of where people land or really believe the money in school safety should be invested,” Leyko said.

She said people range from wanting to invest in doorstops and bulletproof glass, to those who prefer to prioritize more investment in threat assessments and student mental health.

“I don’t think you can have that conversation without talking about guns and safety, but I also don’t think you can have it without talking about mental health,” Leyko said.

In recent years, the district has built five new elementary schools and renovated one. She said the design phase took place shortly after the 2018 high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which killed 17 people, and community members in East Lansing had many questions about school safety.

“Since Columbine, I think it’s been a more intentional feature in the design of new buildings,” Leyko said. “But I think every time something, a school tragedy happens, it becomes more and more important in people’s design characteristics.”

The schools include secure vestibules similar to the one recently installed in Westwood, emergency panic buttons that trigger the closing and locking of doors, security cameras and administrative offices that can clearly see outside to keep an eye on on visitors.

“We may not know if someone is angry when they walk into the office, but it gives us the opportunity to have a layer of security between the office and where our students are.”

Security without “fortresses”

There have been 46 shootings on school property or in a school bus that have resulted in injuries or deaths this year alone, according to the Education Week School Shooting Tracker.

“We don’t want to build, you know, like fortresses for school buildings, but we want to make sure they’re secure,” said Michigan State Police school safety officer Kim Root. , in Bridge.

She said the office tries to guide rather than prescribe solutions for schools to increase their safety. The state police also reviews school district grant applications for school resource officers.

Alyse Ley, a psychiatrist and co-director of a program that will work to provide support for students at risk of violence across the state, told Bridge that she supports schools in using evidence-based ways to mitigate. security issues.

The Teen Targeted Violence Prevention Project received $15 million in state funding. Ley said the goal is to support youth at risk of violence with services and ensure that law enforcement, schools and mental health professionals are no longer isolated from each other.

The pilot program is based on research on completed and averted cases of school violence. Students who are deemed to be at high risk for violence will be matched with a mentor and a case manager. These workers will ensure that students have the services they need, whether it is academic or mental support, positive peer interactions or vocational training.

“We can really, really change a young person’s life trajectory by implementing certain resources, different ways of thinking, positive experiences and relationships, they can all make a huge difference.”

Both Ley and Russell of Secure Education Consultants serve on the state’s new School Safety and Mental Health Commission. Russell said the group has met twice so far. A different state group in 2018 came up with a set of 29 recommendations for school safety.

There are trade-offs with increased security technologies. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s K-12 security guide acknowledges that installing security cameras can help identify threats, but also lead to an “infringement of civil rights and liberties” if schools do not follow the guidelines. local, state and federal laws.

For example, the agency explains that instead of placing multiple cameras across the school, schools could require staff to stand in hallways during busy times to monitor student behavior and monitor who is in the hallway. school. This creates its own problems, reducing students’ ability to ask teachers questions after class and requiring staff to be trained on what to do if they detect a threat.

The Michigan Department of Education has received funding applications from 937 applicants for the new school safety funding, department communications director Marty Ackley told Bridge in an email. MDE expects the funds to be distributed around the beginning of January.

There were 880 requests for security assessment funding.

Matt Schueller, director of government relations for the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators, said this year’s funding structure is important because it allows districts to determine what technology or training is best for them rather than having them apply for a grant for a specific area. safety feature.

He said he’s not sure new lawmakers will want to continue this type of funding for the next budget, but “we’re going to do our best to tell them why this is a really good use of government money. taxpayers”.

Simmons of Westwood said that if he knew the money would be guaranteed for several years, he would go ahead and buy additional security measures like the artificial intelligence technology that detects a gun in the footage of security.

Development of the use of technology, cultural training

This technology is available to Michigan schools through ZeroEyes, a company that uses artificial intelligence and security camera footage to identify if a firearm is present. The company then uses trained weapons experts to verify the threat and then contact law enforcement or other security personnel.

There are about 10 public or private K-12 school groups in Michigan currently working with ZeroEyes, Chief Strategy Officer Kieran Carroll told Bridge. Oxford High School began piloting the technology in April.

“One of the things we’ve realized as a small business is that districts are having a really hard time maintaining security,” Carroll said. “And it’s not necessarily their fault, they don’t have the expertise.”

He said 10 years ago, the superintendent’s job was to ensure students were educated and resilient while faculty were engaged.

“Now their number one job is, ‘How do I make sure every child is alive at the end of the day?’ So that’s added a ton of outside pressure on the districts, on the school boards, and what we’re trying to at least advocate on their behalf is sustainable resource funding for all aspects of school safety.

Westwood is spending $15,000 to have 19 people become ALICE Certified Trainers. These people learn the alert, containment, information, counter-attack and evacuation system. Simmons said it would take three years to fully implement the program.

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