With tweaks, Alyssa’s Law can improve | Opinion

By Debi Davis January 22, 2020

With more than 366 mass shootings in 2019 resulting in 408 deaths and almost 1,500 injuries, legislators are finally getting the message that protecting our students must be a priority.

Likewise, in the aftermath of these tragedies, local Parent Teachers Associations are taking steps to make their individual schools more secure. In 2017, PTAs raised more than $425 million. With that amount, it appears as though these organizations can expand their roles from enhancing libraries, funding teacher salaries and other important issues to improving school security.

This private/public cooperation should result in students and parents having confidence that schools can be safe havens for teachers, children and administrators. Based on our experience, PTAs are anxious to step into this new role.

The first initiative comes with the upcoming vote on Alyssa’s Law, named after Marjory Stoneman Douglas victim Alyssa Alhadeff. This law calls for the installation of silent panic alarms in every public school building in Florida to alert police and rescuers to emergencies. A version of this law has been passed in New Jersey. Hopefully, this law will become a reality soon. The law, as written, does have flaws.

While well-intentioned, the proposed panic button is actually impractical. Law enforcement agencies anticipate pranks and false alarms caused by students. Another drawback is that this system can’t locate or track the shooter or other intruders. Based on input from first responders, there are more efficient ways to communicate.

A more practical solution — one that is compliant with the legislation — is a cellphone-based app that can alert first responders while tracking the intruder through its GPS system. This affordable technology exists and is effective since virtually everyone has a cellphone. It creates efficiencies with first responders as well as a sound platform for closed mass communication. These systems can be customized so that only designated people — administrators, trusted students, teachers — can contact first responders in the event of an emergency.

This lack of communication was evident during the Parkland tragedy since 911 calls were going to the wrong responders resulting in delays. Communication with teachers and parents was non-existent.

Rapid communication is at the heart of saving lives and goes hand-in-hand with other initiatives such as securing entries and having more cameras and resource officers.

Unfortunately, the need for enhanced security is the world we live in and schools should be among the greatest priorities. After all, office buildings, sports/concert venues and airports have implemented safety strategies. Why not schools?

The answer is funding. And that’s where PTAs are taking a leadership position. For example, in North Carolina, a small elementary school PTA is raising money to fund the hiring of a resource officer. Others are taking more comprehensive steps.

Historically, PTAs have been an important resource that accounts for budget shortfalls. Today, saving lives and preventing injury are priorities that must be funded.

The National Parent Teacher Association advocates for local collaboration for decision-making regarding the presence of law enforcement on school campuses. This organization is against arming teachers.

The organization calls for a multi-faceted approach to address school safety that involves all stakeholders, especially students, parents and families.

We are urging everyone to advocate for these legislative initiatives and to endorse and support the work of the local Parent Teachers Associations.

The health and vibrancy of our educational systems depend on it.

Source link:

Debi Davis is a school security consultant and chief operating officer of FrandMe Education, an app developer that has created a platform that enhances school security and communications.