Smart Solutions for Safer Schools: Navigating the Digital Landscape of Student Security

Few things are as frightening and devastating as seeing another incident of school violence making front-page headlines.

It’s an experience that happens far too often. 

However, rather than being reactive and waiting for the next tragedy to come across our screens, it’s time to be proactive about stopping this troubling trend. 

We know that student safety is a school’s highest priority, and many decision-makers are working extremely hard to improve their school’s defensive posture. They are asking the right question: ​How can we ensure our schools are safe havens for learning and growth in an era of increasing security threats?

It’s a multifaceted problem with many solutions, but new technologies are stepping up to help cultivate safer spaces where students can learn and thrive. 

Here are three tech-enabled solutions elevating school safety right now. 

#1 AI-Driven Threat Detection

After a 6-year-old Virginia elementary school student pulled a gun out of his backpack and shot his first grade teacher in the chest, the district’s response was swift and unanimous: they installed weapons detectors in all their schools.  

In doing so, the district joined a growing cohort of school districts installing AI weapons detection systems to help protect their schools. 

One analysis found that eight of the 100 largest schools in the US have already installed AI-powered weapons detection systems.  

While the technology is unlikely to prevent a mass shooting from an outside threat, it can help schools guard against insiders who bring weapons into schools and classrooms, like the Virginia elementary school student, Noblesville West Middle School student, and Oxford High School student, who snuck weapons into their respective schools before. 

With three percent of students admitting they carried a weapon on school property in the last 30 days, this can be a significant safety upgrade for schools of all sizes. AI weapons detection technology discretely notifies school security when a weapon is detected, providing precise location data and ensuring an immediate and targeted response. For example, Xtract One provides entry screening solutions that automatically detect guns, knives, and other threats more accurately than metal detectors without requiring students and employees to divest personal items or endure pat-downs.

AI-powered sensors detect hidden threats without forcing students and visitors to endure uncomfortable searches or pat-downs. 

Threats against schools are unlikely to abate, but by detecting threats upon entry, some tragedies can be prevented with minimal disturbance.

#2 Biometric Access Control

Access control is critical to a safe school environment. 

According to the Pew Research Center, 97 percent of schools “monitored doors and loading docks” during the school day, and 98 percent required visitors to sign in. 

Safe schools know who is in their buildings at all times, and biometrics make it easy to track this information. 

In many schools, this technology is already in place, used to track attendance, grant access to technology, or ensure appropriate meals are provided.

Now, their use is being expanded to make schools safer. 

For example, the West Platte School District in Missouri installed nearly 100 facial recognition cameras that are connected to law enforcement databases. This technology can initiate a school lockdown if someone from the criminal database is detected on campus. 

Beyond k-12 campuses, colleges and universities are using this technology to secure dorms and research facilities. 

#3 Mobile Safety Apps 

When the right detection and reporting procedures are in place, school violence is often preventable. 

An expansive Secret Service analysis of averted school shootings found that “in every case, tragedy was averted by members of the community coming forward when they observed behavior that elicited concern.” 

Specifically, the report found that students are best positioned to identify and report concerning behavior, which means schools must provide platforms for students to safely and privately share information. Notably, 90 percent of would-be attackers told others about their plans, while a separate study notes that half of assailants issued a warning before they acted. 

This makes providing reporting solutions critical to keeping schools and students safe. 

For instance, one-third of schools that prevented a shooting had a reporting solution, including tip lines, phone numbers, online incident forms, email addresses, smartphone apps, and text messaging systems. 

In this way, technology enables students, parents, or community members to report threats before they happen. 

A Rand report encourages schools to give students multiple ways to report a threat by leveraging mobile apps, online forms, phone numbers, and text message services. 

Critically, schools must make this reporting anonymous or confidential, as students fear being ostracized by peers. 

Supporting Safety Together 

Too often, sales of school security solutions surge after a disaster, like a school shooting, prompts leaders to take decisive action. We need proactive solutions that keep our schools safe from the start. 

That’s why solutions, like AI-driven threat detection, biometric access control, and mobile safety apps are not mere reactions to past tragedies but are proactive measures to safeguard against potential threats.

By embracing these technologies, educational institutions can avoid potential dangers, fostering a secure and nurturing learning environment for all. It’s time for schools to prioritize safety without compromise. 

Xtract One is ready to serve as your safety partner. Connect with us today, and we will help your school or district explore the right solutions for enhancing student safety in your local context. Together, we can protect our students and make our schools safer.