At the Lockport City School District in Lockport, N.Y., the surveillance system is being upgraded to a facial recognition system that will check each face against a database of “expelled students, sex offenders and other possible troublemakers,” according to an article by Associated Press that was picked up the week of July 22 by several media outlets, among them FoxNews.com.
Lockport, near Niagara Falls, is purportedly the first U.S. school district to adopt the Aegis system, made by SN Technologies of Ontario (www.sntechnologies.ca/security/).
“The idea behind the Lockport system is to enable security officers to quickly respond to the appearance of expelled students, disgruntled employees, sex offenders or certain weapons the system is programmed to detect. Only students seen as threats will be loaded into the database,” the Fox News article states.
Despite its $1.4 million cost, the article says district officials acknowledged it won’t stop a determined attacker from coming through the door, nor will it warn against someone who is not a known threat.
The article quotes Robert LiPuma, technology director for the Lockport school district: “There’s no system that’s going to solve every problem. It’s another tool that we feel will give us an advantage to help make our buildings and our communities a little safer.”
A debate is already ensuing about the about the system’s potential effectiveness, student privacy and civil rights, according to the article.
At the recent Electronic Security Expo (ESX), several experts spoke in a closing keynote “Stronger Security, Safer Schools” about how technology is just one piece of the huge school security puzzle that includes so many other pieces, including better parental awareness of security policies; a provision for students to (anonymously or not) report things they see and hear that are disturbing; the importance of having a dedicated security/safety professional on staff; educating students and staff how to use technology; tighter communication leading to better coordinated response; and more.
“Lesson learned: my family and I and 16 other families paid the ultimate price for not understanding how our district dealt with security and safety issues,” said Ryan Petty, senior vice president, Business Solutions, Cable & Wireless Communications. Petty has a firsthand but tragic perspective, as his daughter Alaina Petty, just 14 years old, was killed in the Feb. 14 Parkland, Fla., shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Referring to fellow panelist Guy Grace, who holds a prominent security position with Littleton, Colo., Public Schools, Petty said, “It’ great to know that there are some school districts that take it seriously. It seems to follow the tragedy as opposed to being a preventative concept. Just three weeks after the shooting we passed a new law in Florida where every school district is required to have a position like this as part of being proactive around school safety and security.”
Grace, who is director of security and emergency planning at Littleton Public Schools, spoke about “interoperability” between technologies and processes. “What is important, when you talk about technology is unifying security technology and other life safety devices such as the fire alarm system — and that’s where you can help us,” he said to the ESX audience made up mostly of security dealers.
“Those integrations are tremendous — they save lives. You can put all those things in but you have to empower your employees and your students to understand how that technology’s going to work because you also have to give them options on understanding how they’re going to have to escape or shelter and get away from these people that are a threat to them. If we don’t do those things, we could put all the technology in the world into a school but those people are not going to survive.”
Petty said if he could roll the clock back and change one thing, it would be that the various entities share information with each other. Until that changes, we have little hope of stopping these threats.”