Monroe-Woodbury to enhance school security


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  • The Raptor Visitor Management System checks visitors using their government-issued identification at a school’s entry point. It screens out registered sex offenders, manages custody issues, coordinates volunteers and responds to emergencies.




  • Anonymous Alerts is a patented two-way communications system that empowers students to anonymously report suspicious activity, safety threats, bullying, alcohol or drug use, depression, harassment, family issues, school shooter, campus safety concerns and self-harm issues directly to school administrators, he said.




By Nancy Kriz

— The Parkland, Florida high, school shootings serve as a solemn reminder to area school districts to remain vigilant in their readiness for any potential security and safety threats and issues.

“In any tragedy, especially school tragedies, there’s something to be learned,” said Frank Squillante, Monroe-Woodbury School District director of safety and security. “In my opinion, we are making every effort to keep this district as safe as possible. We are constantly re-looking at what we’re doing.”

Like other districts, Monroe-Woodbury runs all kinds of safety and security drills throughout the school year.

“We feel the way you drill, is the way you will react,” Squillante said., “The more we involve every person, the ‘boots on the ground people,’ the people actually in there with students, the student themselves, we know their actions can help save a life. We try to drill as real as possible and we have to be sensitive to age levels. When something like this (Parkland) happened, it makes me think harder. It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s ‘when.’ Training and getting our staff and students prepared is the number one thing we’re doing.”

Specific details of what the district’s safety and security plans are never discussed for the obvious reasons, but Squillante said drills and lock downs focus on the different scenarios that are all too familiar to faculty, students and families.

“The drills have changed, they’re a bit more spontaneous,” he said, adding any advance announcement of a drill tends to be more generic in nature to purposely test on-the-spot preparedness. “We routinely involve other people in the calling of a drill because building principals may not always be in the building. Those in the building need to be comfortable in case of an emergency.”

Although ongoing security enhancements are kept confidential, there are two new school safety and security initiatives which Squillante announced at the Feb. 21 Board of Education meeting.

They aren’t tied to recent events in Parkland but are the results of months of research and completion of due diligence, Squillante said.

Anonymous AlertsThe first is the introduction of a pilot program called Anonymous Alerts, an award-winning anti-bullying and safety reporting mobile app and system for students, community members and staff, to the high school and middle school population.

Anonymous Alerts is a patented two-way communications system that empowers students to anonymously report suspicious activity, safety threats, bullying, alcohol or drug use, depression, harassment, family issues, school shooter, campus safety concerns and self-harm issues directly to school administrators, he said. It’s not meant for use in emergencies when 911 should be called. Once the district goes live with the system, the mobile app is available for free to download from the Apple Store, Google Play store, and the Chrome store.

The app’s rollout will be in March. At the end of the school year, district officials will then evaluate its success. Squillante expects it to be a permanent program starting in the 2018-2019 school year.

“Just about everyone has a Smartphone and they use them,” said Squillante, who visited districts using the app in Newton, Connecticut, and Brewster. “This is one additional tool in our kit to be proactive. It’s another layer of, ‘If you see something, say something.’ We think students will like and use this because they are so tied to technology and it’s anonymous. This can help save a life or prevent a tragedy. We will encourage students and the community to be proactive in using it.”

Squillante estimated the app system’s cost for this school year to be “between an affordable $1,800 and $2,000.” For the next school year, that figure is estimated to be between $4,500 and $5,000 and is based on middle and high school student enrollment for the full school year. The added benefit is that community members can download the app for free and be part of the alert system if they equally see something amiss. There are possible long-term plans to bring it into the elementary schools.

“It’s a small price to pay,” he added.

Raptor Visitor ManagementSecondly, sometime in March, the district will introduce the Raptor Visitor Management System at the high school and middle school.

Raptor is the first web-based visitor management system designed for K-12 schools and is used at more than 20,000 K-12 schools nationwide. It’s considered the best in the marketplace, Squillante said.

The system doesn’t take away from the role of the school greeter, but checks visitors using their government-issued identification at a school’s entry point. It screens out registered sex offenders, manages custody issues, coordinates volunteers and responds to emergencies. The system provides automatic ID data capture, instant automatic screening, ensures appropriate data is visible on visitor badges and provides “smart” alert notification using cloud-based access.

With each Raptor unit costing about $1,500, Squillante said the system is “affordable and makes sense.” Plans call for the system’s installation in the five elementary buildings in the fall.

“I want to remind everyone that school safety is everyone’s responsibility,” Squillante said, stressing the important, cooperative role the district has with local, county, state and federal law enforcement authorities who often use district buildings for their own drills in addition to participating in the various school drills. “Everyone plays a critical role in an emergency. Cooperation is a team effort. It has to be looked at seriously at all times. Every time we can work together to create a safe environment, we embrace that.”

A note from the editor: What do you think?

The tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has created a powerfully focused, determined force of the school's students, parents and teachers. They continue to demand elected officials find new solutions to address the ongoing national issues of gun control and gun violence, and they continue to capture the public's attention.

While public debate has been going on for decades, a new voice has emerged: That of the students who have turned into gun control advocates. By all accounts, their voices show courage, passion, demonstrated research to support their positions and maturity, all packaged in thoughtful commentary with minimal vitriol.

The issues are understandably complex. But what has emerged in the last week in this ongoing national debate and discussion is what teachers and parents hope to see in their students and children. The teachable moment is that becoming educated and aware about a critical topic allows for further meaningful, often times assertive dialogue, further introducing young people to American democracy and the importance of getting involved and looking to make a positive difference. What do you think? I welcome your thoughts on this important public safety issue. Please email me at editor.pn@strausnews.com.

Bob Quinn

Managing Editor, Photo News


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