Public School Safety and Security Requires Multifaceted Approach

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What started as a visitor management system has grown in two decades to an integrated school safety software company that some 50,000 K-12 schools across the nation have chosen to address the aspects of campus safety and security.

Houston-based Raptor Technologies started with a visitor management tool 20 years ago, Chief Marketing Officer David Rogers told Industry Insider — Texas. Visitor management tools confirm that designated adults are picking up students, flag people on sex offender registries and document those who have been banned from campuses.

Raptor has grown to include multiple app-based products that include emergency management and volunteer management systems.

Schools across the state are required by law to have emergency planning in place. At top of mind is an active shooter or intruder; however, there are other safety issues at play each day. These could include an unauthorized person such as a non-custodial parent or other unauthorized visitor; severe weather including tornadoes, flooding or freezes; facilities problems including electrical outages or HVAC breakdowns; and multiple other scenarios.

Westwood Independent School District, comprising four campuses, adopted Raptor products in 2019.

“What started driving us was the visitor management piece,” Superintendent Wade Stanford said. “We were using some antiquated system that … wasn’t meeting the needs, so we started exploring, we started looking and we put a committee together. We started reviewing [products], and Raptor rose to the top.”

Now they are readying to deploy the platform’s reunification tool, which is used for relocating students during an emergency or a disaster. Stanford said this was what solidified Westwood’s software choice.

“When we reviewed it … all the pieces were top notch, but the reunification piece was far above anything we even imagined or saw,” Stanford said earlier this fall. “Reunification is the scariest part. If there’s a disaster on campus, we have to take kids away from campus to another site. Then we have to reunite them with a parent, guardian or other designated person in a timely manner.

“You’re talking about chaos on a campus, and you’re talking about being flooded with people whether that be emergency people or community.”

Reunification is part of emergency management, and Raptor products are customizable to fit different schools’ safety response procedures. Pulling classroom rolls and attendance records, the software automates what was a paper process that can be long and confusing. Information is rendered on whatever device a staff member, administrator or first responder is using.

Once a student or staffer is accounted for, the software will update that and the arrival at the designated location. In theory, this should cut down on running paperwork or relaying verbal information through multiple people, saving time and anxiety.

When asked about data and training, Stanford stressed that the tool is as good as those using it. His campuses are enthusiastic about adoption, and a Westwood administrator stepped up and asked to take ownership of the adoption. He also said that the school’s data is going through quality assurance and that all data is private and owned by the schools.

Platform features include:

  • Cloud-based software.
  • Incident management.
  • Relaying information to authorities.
  • Syncing with student information systems (SIS), making headcounts possible.
  • Connection to staff and stakeholders, including texts.
  • Ability to track and report on safety drills.
  • Compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
  • Compatibility with multiple devices including PCs, phones or tablets.
  • In-person training, and when needed, direct support.

Texas officials have continued to up the ante on drills and reporting mandates. After May’s mass shooting in Uvalde, the Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released a School Safety Requirements and Information letter outlining steps to be taken for safety assurance. This includes regular safety drills and reporting their success rates.

In a time when active shooters are on the public’s mind, Raptor’s Rogers said the goal is “to create a culture of safety” with “standards and rules.”

His company provides training and assistance to users and has a hands-on approach, he said. Stanford confirmed that the company has been there “every step of the way.”

“We run drills with it,” Stanford said. “And we practice accounting for our kiddos, right? We’re so proud of this number right here: We recently ran a drill, and 100 percent of our staff were able to respond where they were, and that the kids were good.”