Why this proactive school district bet on situational awareness technology

Feb. 24, 2023
The increased violence in our schools has significantly impacted our students' well-being

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), school shootings with casualties reached an all-time high in 2021. However, school violence doesn't solely mean school shootings; this past year, we've also read stories about the assault on teachers and students by their peers. It's no secret that these events lead to stressful work and learning environments for teachers and students, severely affecting their ability to function in these "safe" spaces.

While there's no one fix-all solution to rid violence from within our schools, there is a breadth of technology and services available. Each is uniquely capable of helping your staff identify, monitor, and react to various situations in real-time and can help identify potentially volatile problems before they occur. Technology in this market is colloquially referred to as situational awareness technology, and while used predominantly in a school setting, it's also applied in healthcare and warehouse settings.

Threats of Violence Have Consequences in Schools

We all know and have seen the surface-level effects of increased violence in schools. Still, its impact goes significantly deeper and affects students and teachers alike in various ways that are hard to quantify in a news story, but make no mistake, teachers and students are suffering.

According to a study in the Italian Journal of Pediatrics, children who have experienced school violence are at risk for long-term mental and physical health conditions, including attachment disorders, substance abuse, and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. These conditions are severe in their own right but considering their brains are still developing compounds the problem. According to a Stanford Medicine report, it can forever alter children's brain chemistry. Furthermore, that same Stanford Medicine study found that students exposed to school violence had higher usage rates of antidepressants, higher dropout rates, and a decline in average test scores. The increased violence in our schools has significantly impacted our students' well-being, both now and in the future. However, they're not the only ones that witness violence in schools and have to deal with its effects.

Just as our students must deal with violence occurring in their "safe" spaces, teachers have felt an added burden dealing with the fallout from the violence plaguing our schools. Many of them - 80% - reported experiencing school violence during their career. As teachers are leaving the profession in record numbers due to other challenges affecting the industry, it's important to note that the National Education Association estimates over half of the teachers surveyed reported a desire or plan to leave their current school due to concerns about school climate and safety.

However, unlike students, teachers are expected to help triage the consequences of violence in schools while coping with their own experiences of the incident. Schools that have implemented and utilized situational awareness technology, like Caldwell Exempted Village School District, use it to help identify potential violent scenarios and triage when the incidents occur, improving the quality of care for students and removing an unnecessary burden from teachers. 

School District Finds a Solution

Caldwell Exempted Village School District, in Caldwell, Ohio, was looking for a solution to enhance communications making them more effective and efficient throughout the district. Additionally, they wanted a more comprehensive approach to security district-wide. They feel that developing, challenging, and supporting every student every day begins with a safe environment.

Despite some aging facilities, Caldwell Exempted Village School District was able to install situational awareness technology, SARA, to complement its existing technologies and have a modernized approach to security. Prior to SARA’s implementation, the district had teachers and administrators relying on a commonly used app that they found to be ineffective and unreliable. They often found that alarms would not go through to all of the designated phones or that the alarms sounded long after an alert was sent. Frustrated with the management system and lack of support from the app, they sought to navigate away from its use.

With the addition of SARA, teachers, administrators, and other personnel are now able to use desktop dashboard buttons to trigger alerts that are sent to designated recipients. These alerts can be as simple as a student who is sick or as serious as an intruder. They are completely customizable to meet each individual facility’s unique needs. SARA’s reliability and immediate mass communication methods have elevated Caldwell Exempted Village School District’s security measures helping to provide peace of mind to students, parents, and staff.

As teachers leave the profession at alarming rates and students continue to feel the consequences of school violence, it's time we analyze where we've been failing, whether in policy or implementation and figure out ways to increase school safety. The 21st century has blessed us with fantastic technological improvements and innovations. 2023 is the time for us to utilize these technologies in schools to protect our students and those teaching our future generations.

About the authors: Mary Yontz is the Director of School Improvement and has been within the Caldwell Exempted Village School District since 1996.  She started out as a 5th-grade teacher in a self-contained classroom and ended her teaching career as a 4th-grade Language Arts teacher. Each day, she would come to school to make a difference in at least one child’s life that day.  Over time, the desire to make a difference at the district level became so great that she stepped out of the classroom and became the Director of School Improvement.  In this role, school safety became a primary focus because for teachers to teach and students to learn, they must feel safe. She also works on improving attendance and has received numerous grants addressing various needs through the district.  She is a graduate of Ohio University and received her Administrative license through Indiana Wesleyan.
Danielle Myers is the Status Solutions’ General Manager. Since 2008 Myers has held numerous positions within the mission-based organization Status Solutions. Currently, she is General Manager and Lead Evangelist where she uses her expertise in situational awareness technologies to customize solutions, fulfill each customer’s unique needs, and spread the Status Solutions’ message of leaving each situation better than we found it. Danielle’s experiences in varying markets include, but are not limited to, senior living, healthcare, education, manufacturing, hospitality, and government. She is responsible for leading the sales and engineering teams to design, deliver, and maintain solutions for integrated alarm management and automated mass notification systems. Danielle is a graduate of The Ohio State University and an expert on middleware integration technologies for situational and environmental awareness.