Arming Our Schools with Communication Tools
Why We Do What We Do, by Adam Whitney of Regroup Mass Notification
Today I took a midday “brain break” and went to the gym (I’m competing hard in our ongoing company weight loss challenge). While I was sweating it out to oldies on the elliptical, I saw on the overhead T.V., “Trump tweets to arm teachers with guns to prevent school shootings.”
Now, this hits home especially hard for me because my wife is a kindergarten teacher in a school district that’s riddled with gang violence, poverty and over-crowded schools, and lacks the preventative resources needed to help kids heading down the path of violence. To be honest, the idea of sending my wife to school with a gun is terrifying (and not just because I’ve seen her on the shooting games in the arcade).
No matter what your political beliefs are, I would hope that the idea of arming the very people we have charged with shaping young minds bothers you, at least a little. It’s a scary, violent world we live in and, in some cases, I understand the use of force — but not in a classroom environment. The company I work for, Regroup Mass Notification, makes solutions that I believe are far more effective in improving school safety – and not just because I work there, but because I have personal experience to back it up.
I’d like to share a brief story about when I was in the seventh grade. Keep in mind, this was before cell phones were in the pockets of 6-year-olds and schools were run by software, apps and smart boards.
That day started like any other day. First period was P.E. and, after our morning jog, we all met in the P.E. room where we had CPR training scheduled. Things were hectic and I remember roll call came and went, and when the teacher asked where a couple of missing students were someone shouted out that they were in the bathroom. Class ended and we moved into second period, Art Class. About 15 minutes into class, the sirens went off — our school was on a lockdown. The teacher seemed confused, as if she was unaware that a drill was scheduled for that day.
Little did we know that across the campus, events were unfolding that could have been prevented – and not by a teacher with a gun. The missing student from P.E. had brought his dad’s pistol to a classroom to settle the score with a teacher he felt had wronged him. Now, this standoff ended better than most, the student eventually backed down to a patient police sergeant and was taken into custody after about two hours of being on lockdown. Students were bussed to a neighboring school where our parents were notified that they could pick us up.
Two things about that day inspire the solutions I design at Regroup; First, there were warning signs, but the school lacked the tools to keep faculty and teachers in the loop about those signs and how to take action earlier. Second, on the morning of that incident, he was reported missing after the jog and had warned others of his plan, but our P.E. teacher had no way to take action. I knew this student and he was a bit aggressive, a bit of a bully. Unfortunately, he was abused at home and often came to school with bruises. He was a 13-year-old kid with issues and no one reached out to him to make him feel safe and to help.
The tools we build at Regroup Mass Notification aren’t just a line item to cover bureaucrats’ behinds; they can help prevent these situations from coming to life by equipping teachers like mine to send an alert, get assistance form school staff or security, and hopefully get ahead of a bad situation before it happens. Rather than arm our teachers with guns and tactical training to shoot back at children, we should arm them with tools that help them communicate and take action in these situations, long before they get out of hand.
Anonymous tipping systems, communication among key personnel and staff, and escalation situations of children “at risk” are all things we need more of. Our products at Regroup Mass Notification are part of the solution. Teachers like my wife already fight hard to keep children going on the right track; however, budget constraints and lack of adequate forethought and planning mean they lack the tools and resources to get the help they need for these children.
We need to fight back with an arsenal of compassion, software, communication, and planning that helps empower teachers and parents to act on warning signs and take preventative measures. Students need to know that they can report incidents or concerns, and not face risk of punishment or retaliation from those they report. And lastly, the kids who consider violence as the solution to the problems and challenges they face at school or home need a voice — they need to be heard early, and they need to be taken seriously.
This is why all of us at Regroup do what we do.
Adam Whitney is the Director of Product Development at Regroup Mass Notification.
Regroup Mass Notification empowers better mass communication that keeps people safe and informed at all times. The company’s award-winning, cloud-based mass communication platform is what clients across North America and around the globe rely on to send both emergency and day-to-day communications to millions of people. By enabling one-click messaging to mobile devices, landlines, social media, email, websites, and more, Regroup Mass Notification helps organizations keep people safe, strengthen operational resilience, mitigate risk, and thrive in an increasingly unpredictable world.