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Texas School District Outfits Staff with Panic Buttons

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One North Texas school district became the first in the nation to outfit all of its faculty and staff members in high-tech, wearable security panic buttons.

This week, the Lovejoy Independent School District upped the ante on school safety with the MadeSafe emergency alert system. They issued more than 600 employees were issued a Personal Location Device (PLD). It can be worn like a necklace on a lanyard. When activated, MadeSafe notifies first responders by displaying the location of an alert on a 3D map of a school. It also advises administrators to a situation via text and email.

Enseo, based in Richardson, Texas, launched MadeSafe in 2015 for use in the hotel industry. In a press release, the company said it adapted the technology for schools. The “networking and cloud computing” system provides immediate notification of an incident such as a medical emergency, a student altercation, or an encounter with a potentially suspicious or dangerous person on a school campus. MadeSafe uses a high resolution detection grid to track the exact location of teachers and staff when they activate the PLD.

Lovejoy ISD officials said they integrated MadeSafe into their existing emergency response protocols. Superintendent Ted Moore told Breitbart Texas by email they chose the Enseo product because it met their education, security, and well-being needs. He also cited future plans for “educational benefits such as improved AV/Distance Learning and Education on Demand.”

Enseo Founder and CEO Vanessa Ogle, a Lovejoy ISD parent, told Dallas Innovates the school district was “very aggressive in terms of wanting to lead the state in security.”

Nationwide, school safety concerns soared after the deadly Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas, high school shootings. In the Lone Star State, Governor Greg Abbott ordered education officials to review and strengthen K-12 and higher education security protocols. Abbott also unveiled a 40-page school and firearm safety action plan that contained a bevy of suggested strategies. It called for more than $120 million in funding through grant dollars to help districts implement or enhance safety measures.

Many Texas school districts have hardened campuses through the use of clear backpacks, random searches, classroom door locks, increased police presence, and active shooter training for educators and campus staff participating in marshal and guardian programs. Some redesigned school building entrances, retrofitted windows with bullet proof glass, and added campus perimeter fencing. Others incorporated varying degrees of technology from entryway metal detectors to upgraded surveillance systems, classroom panic buttons, and “apps” for students to anonymously report suspicious behavior.

However, high-tech security solutions are pricey and raise concerns for some over efficacy, increased student data collection, weakened privacy, and zero tolerance policies that can result in the school-to-prison pipeline.

Texas City ISD issued student and staff ID badges with a built-in chip that monitors their locations. Also, they introduced an app that gives dispatchers access to school surveillance cameras, added eight police deputies, and hired a former Secret Service agent to oversee the district’s security protocols, according to KTRK.

Fort Bend ISD hopes to add facial recognition, more commonly used in airports and by law enforcement, into a lengthy wish list that allocates $8.6 million for security upgrades, among them metal detectors and mandatory bar-coded student ID badges.

Garland ISD will pump $36 million in high-tech surveillance, overhauling its existing system. Last year, Mansfield ISD devoted more than $10 million from a $275 million bond to safety and security. McKinney ISD budgeted $6.5 million from a 2016 school bond for 1,500 HD cameras in its schools.

Breitbart Texas asked the Lovejoy ISD superintendent about MadeSafe’s price tag. He did not disclose costs. Instead, he explained each system is designed based “on size, construction type and network infrastructure.” Moore then said, “After surveying our schools, Enseo gave us a turn-key price including design, installation, testing, and training.”

He also said that MadeSafe was not purchased from their 2018-19 adopted Maintenance and Operations budget which set aside nearly $500,000 for security. This reflected almost a $400,000 increase in security spending from the previous school year. Moore commented these funds were earmarked for “personnel cost to cover a security office” on all six Lovejoy ISD campuses. He said, “The Enseo system was purchased from capital funds” that “resulted from savings on projects that had already been completed.”

Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.

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