Schools introduce panic buttons for shootings, but security chief calls it ‘theater security’
Several states are looking to beef up safety measures with new panic alert buttons as the new school year is about to begin. Critics warn, however, that such costly measures will not be effective.
School shootings, including those in Parkland, Florida, in 2018 — and most recently this year in Uvalde, Texas — have led to a rise in systems like CrisisAlert, which allow teachers to sound alarms and set off interlocks.
Ken Trump, president of the National School Safety and Security Services, called these systems nothing more than “security theater.” Rather than costly measures, he suggests training staff to make sure doors aren’t opened and implementing basic security protocols.
“People want visible, tangible things,” Trump told The Associated Press. “It’s much harder to stress the value of training your staff. They are immaterial. These are less visible and invisible things, but they are more effective.
CrisisAlert, meanwhile, can cost schools $2.1 million over a five-year period.
That’s what Kansas City’s Olathe Public Schools spent, but Director of Security Services Brent Kiger insisted it’s ‘not a knee-jerk reaction’ to a high school shooting. of Olathe in March. He claims he had considered the system before and argued that it could be beneficial.
“It kind of helped us to assess it and look at it from this perspective, ‘We went through this critical incident, and how would that have helped us?’ And that would have helped us that day,” he said. “There’s just no question about it.”
The system has had great success over the past year. CrisisAlert maker Centegix reported in May that in the first quarter of 2022, demand had increased 270% from a year ago.
CrisisAlert isn’t the only panic button system. In 2015, Arkansas unveiled a smartphone app that more than 1,000 schools could use to contact 911.
Lori Alhadeff started the organization Make Our Schools Safe after her 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was killed in the Parkland shooting. His efforts included pressing the panic buttons. Not later, her home state of Florida passed Alyssa’s Law, which required schools to have them. New Jersey did the same.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul demanded that schools at least consider alarm systems after the Uvalde shooting, and Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt ordered schools to put panic buttons .
National Association of School Resource Officers executive director Mo Canady is adamantly opposed to panic buttons, warning they can lead to false alarms or pranks, with no positive results.
“By throwing so much technology at the problem,” Canaday told the AP, “we may have unwittingly created a false sense of security.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.