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CCSD added new security technology at a cost of $5M. Is it working?

Seven months after the district announced it would distribute instant alert badges to teachers to alleviate their concerns after a spike in violence, staff at Clark County schools have used the badges about 560 times.

And according to the Clark County School District, more than 20 percent of those activations were unintentional.

The CrisisAlert badges, which are worn around teachers’ and other employees’ necks, were implemented at all Clark County schools last semester following a spate of violence that culminated in the violent assault of a teacher at Eldorado High School, allegedly by a student.

When the badges are pressed, school employees can trigger a schoolwide lockdown or call for help from administrators or school resource officers to their location.

The devices were installed at all school campuses by early November and cost about $5 million for implementation and the first year’s subscription, the district said in a statement. All school staff have been trained on the proper use of the badges, which are offered through security technology company Centegix.

But Robert Bray, a teacher at Las Vegas High School, said the good news is that staff haven’t had to use the system on his campus this school year.

“We haven’t had to use it, and that’s comforting in itself,” Bray said.

Violence in numbers

The badges have been activated 564 times since they were rolled out in the district over the summer, according to a Thursday statement from the district, but those numbers don’t account for multiple staffers who may have used their badges to report the same incident.

Additionally, a district spokesperson said the badges can be used to call administrators to a specific classroom or location on campus, so teachers in adjoining classrooms may not even be aware that the devices were used.

So far, the district said the system has not been used to put a school into lockdown. Most activations were related to student-code-of-conduct violations.

In April of last school year, the district said it had seen 5,700 calls for service regarding fights, batteries or assaults and 1,300 combined incidents where arrests and citations had been issued on school campuses since the start of the school year.

This year, the numbers for battery, where an individual commits physical violence against another person, are slightly higher than last year, according to school police Lt. Bryan Zink.

But Zink said the number of fights, which can occur between two individuals or a large group of people on campus, are down by 27 percent compared with this time last year.

“We’re happy to see that things are trending downward,” he said.

Zink said the combined effect of the measures that the district took last year to increase school safety has contributed to the improved numbers.

District police officers also have their own CrisisAlert badges, and Zink said he believes they help staff members feel more comfortable and safe in the event that they need help.

“Overall, I hope it makes everyone feel safer,” he said.

Despite reporting fewer incidents of violence on his campus this year, Bray said educators appreciated the effort that was shown in implementing the badges and making campuses more secure, calling last school year “horrendous” in terms of classroom violence.

John Vellardita, executive director of the Clark County Education Association, said last spring that the safety badges had been requested by staff members at Eldorado High School after the attack on their colleague and that the badge could have prevented what she went through.

But the badges weren’t used in an incident at a North Las Vegas high school last month in which two staff members were injured in an altercation, according to the president of another local teachers union.

Not a guarantee

On Dec. 16, two staff members were injured and three juveniles were arrested during an altercation at Legacy High School, according to a district statement.

Vicki Kreidel, a second grade teacher and president of the National Education Association of Southern Nevada, said she was told that neither of the two teachers involved in the altercation pressed their badges, despite the male teacher involved in the incident being badly beaten.

“I’m thinking that in the chaos they didn’t even think of it or they weren’t able to for some reason,” she said. “That’s my concern: They’re not always easy to use when there’s something chaotic and very physical happening.”

The district did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether staff members at Legacy High School had used their badges during the altercation.

Kreidel said the panic buttons are not a preventive safety measure but a reactive one that doesn’t stop violence from happening on campuses. The badges were meant to get employees help more quickly, but as with the instance at Legacy, that’s not a guarantee, she said.

Additionally, Kreidel said it’s common for violent incidents to happen at schools, but if they don’t hit the news, employees are told not to talk about it.

“There’s things happening that the public isn’t aware of,” she said.

Following the altercation at Legacy, the district said in a statement that it continues to focus on student and staff safety and will actively pursue all legal actions against anyone threatening or committing violence on its campuses.

The district also has alluded to safety and security plans that even school staff don’t know about, and while the public is understandably curious about what those measures are, “you don’t tell a burglar about what systems you’ve put in your house to keep them from getting in,” Bray said.

Ultimately, Bray said that in the wake of those measures and steps by the school to appoint competent administrators and have hall monitors and police on campus supervising students, the feeling on his campus is one of security, discipline and students knowing what is acceptable and what isn’t this year.

“It really has transformed the feeling of our campus,” he said. “I think all the teachers would say that. It’s been really positive.”

Contact Lorraine Longhi at 702-387-5298 or llonghi@reviewjournal.com. Follow her at @lolonghi on Twitter.

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