In March of 2022, a 15-year-old Eisenhower High School student shot and killed his cousin in the northeast corner of the parking lot after school. Across the street from the school lies a nursing home, and a nurse rushed over to administer first aid. During this time, the other students were being sent to a different area on campus to avoid the ongoing threat as part of their emergency response plan—at least so they thought.
“What happened in the delay in the response is because one of our security said that the incident occurred in the south end of the building, when in fact it occurred in the northeast end of the building,” says Stacey Locke, deputy superintendent at Yakima School District #7 in Washington. “The delay is nearly half a mile because it’s a huge campus.”
This miscommunication led to the realization that the district needed a more unified approach to school safety, she adds. If a situation like this ever occurs again, all staff members should be able to know exactly what’s going on and where.
Leveraging security technology
Since the incident, YSD has deployed a school safety solution known as Centegix, a wearable badge for staff members that alerts the appropriate responders
the moment an incident occurs. For instance, Locke’s district has the badges set up so that if a staff member presses the button
three times, it alerts those within that campus. If pressed repeatedly, it will set off a number of devices throughout the building as a deterrent to whatever the threat may be.
“It will actually set off the strobes, it will do a computer takeover, a TV takeover and also play audio that will alert that we’re doing into a lockdown,” says Locke.
The badges work in every building throughout the district, she adds, including the football stadium. And if that wasn’t reassuring enough, verified responders, which include district-level administrators, security staff and the Yakima Police Department, leverage an app that notifies them exactly when and where the incident occurred to ensure an immediate response time.
Create a school culture that prioritizes safety
As Locke mentioned, ensuring the safety of your students and staff requires more than hiring a school resource officer or installing cameras and metal detectors. K12 leaders should understand the importance of unity and creating an environment where safety is a shared responsibility among their staff.
“There are layers that you put together to achieve the ultimate in safety,” says Locke. “We’re all doing the best we can because it’s a priority.”
The layers Locke references are the additional safety nets students and staff leverage beyond Centegix to promote and ensure a greater sense of security.
“We have the anonymous tip line, armed school safety officers, we’ve just upgraded all of our cameras, we have safety lighting, fencing, panic buttons, and a parent app with real-time updates,” says Locke. “And we do a media release so that everybody has an idea and knows what’s going on. And we have vestibules at all of our school entrances, so you can’t just walk into a school anymore; you have to buzz in and identify yourself.”
Why have it any other way?
Knowing that she has the ability to alert first responders within seconds while simultaneously showing them exactly where and when an incident is occurring, Locke asks, “How can that not feel good? How can that not make me feel like I’m valued as an employee in this organization?” she adds. “And you value me enough to trust me with keeping myself safe and the students I serve.”