This feels like security theater to me, but it’s what passes for progress these days.
All school districts in Montgomery County will soon be using panic alert technology during emergencies, including an active shooter situation, a security measure Texas education officials have proposed to in the wake of the deadly Robb Elementary shooting in Uvalde.
Conroe, Willis, Magnolia, New Caney, Montgomery and Splendora school districts will roll out the Rave Panic Button that will allow users to summon police, medical or fire personnel with the touch of one button on their cell phone.
The Montgomery County Emergency Communication District is partnering with the school districts to fund part of the $170,000 cost for three years.
Andrea Shepard, associate director at the emergency district, said the technology allows a faculty or staff member to push a button for help in an emergency and immediately be connected with 911 dispatchers. The app alerts other faculty and staff on the campus of the threat as well.
“The safety and wellbeing of our students and staff is and will always be our No. 1 priority,” Shepard said. “Our school community should be focused on learning, not worrying about their safety.
The partnership comes after the Texas Education Agency released more details in November regarding panic button technology to beef up school safety after the shooting deaths of 19 children and two adults in May at Robb Elementary.
Currently, districts in 46 states are using the panic button technology, including several in Texas.
I can understand why schools and school districts find this kind of solution appealing. It feels like you’re doing something, which in an environment where not much is in your control has to provide some comfort. It’s not clear to me what the practical advantage of using this app is over just calling 911, especially if you still have to describe the reason for pushing the button. I’m sure some academic is currently collecting data to try to find the effect of one of these apps – there are several options, apparently, with Montgomery schools choosing a product called Rave – so we’ll eventually see a study or two to tell us. The bigger issue – well, one of them, since the root cause problem is only mentioned at the end of this story – is what happens once the button is pushed.
Uvalde had a similar panic system in place when the gunfire erupted in May. State Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) told KHOU that panic buttons work to a degree but won’t solve the gun violence in schools.
“It did work to a certain degree. It warned people and law enforcement there was an intruder,” said Gutierrez, whose districts represents the Uvalde area.
He said the technologies are just a band-aid to the real problem.
“There are remedies on both sides of the aisle but they are not really addressing the real core of the problem, which is we are putting assault rifles in the hands of 18-year-olds,” said Gutierrez.
Calling law enforcement in a more efficient manner is only an advantage if law enforcement’s response is up to the challenge. The example from Uvalde is not promising. Maybe Montgomery County is up to the task. I’m sure Uvalde would have said they were up to it as well, and we haven’t even mentioned DPS and their manifest failures. I mean, I dunno, maybe putting in some effort on the prevention part of the equation might be worthwhile? Just a thought.