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Michigan School District Integrates Safety With Audio Tool

A system designed to amplify classroom audio can now be equipped with safety buttons that provide teachers with a one-touch ability to notify office personnel if something is amiss.

elementary school classroom with students raising their hands from their seats and a teacher at the front
Adobe Stock/Vasyl
A school district in Hart, Mich., is testing a system designed to amplify classroom audio to make sure every student can hear the lesson, and that could also make a difference for school safety.

Lightspeed Technology's Cascadia solution provides teachers with an audio platform and classrooms with a speaker system. But of course that’s not enough today to ensure that students get the most out of their school days. That’s why Jason Gale, technology director for Hart Public Schools, signed on to take part in one of the pilot projects for added safety features to help provide a safer atmosphere for learning.

The solution can now be equipped with three safety buttons, including an emergency button, that provides teachers and administrators with a one-touch ability to notify office personnel that something is amiss. In turn, those in the office receiving the notification can see where it’s coming from and act accordingly.

“We have a setup so that when you press this red button you get an emergency phone call to the office,” Gale said.“The office will get the alert and the teacher is able to put in an earpiece and talk to the office personnel.”

Gale said the newer units come with a lanyard for the teacher and the three buttons: the emergency button; the help button if a classroom needs something but it’s not an emergency; and a check-in button if no immediate assistance is required.

“When we have an emergency alert, it sets a phone call immediately to talk to the office and also goes into the intercom system, alerting that particular area where the emergency is taking place,” Gale said.

As of now, the emergency button isn’t connected with local law enforcement but that may be something that happens in the near future, Gale said. For now, a school resource officer, who works part time with local police and part time on campus, receives any emergency alert.

“We’re all about providing audio in the classrooms so that all students can hear the teacher’s voice,” said Shaun Fagan, senior vice president of product at Lightspeed.

“That is the core of our business, but we’ve been finding there’s greater need for ensuring safety for teachers and students in buildings and that there’s always clear communication when needed,” Fagan said. “We feel like we have an opportunity, with a device that hangs around that teacher’s neck, to enable that to act as a communication device with teachers inside and outside that classroom and provide a couple of buttons.”

Fagan said the system is designed to integrate with a school building's audio system, and to be mobile so a teacher can use it from wherever they are.

In addition to integrating with police, Gale said he is thinking about linking it to the school district’s mass notification system.
Jim McKay is the editor of Emergency Management magazine.