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Security Trends

The latest trends in school district safety and security

Preventing Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Schools

Approximately 7,000 children lose their lives every year due to sudden cardiac arrest, says Dick Wright, president of AED Headquarters. Sudden cardiac arrest can strike without warning. Student athletes are susceptible. If a ball hits a student in the right spot at the right time in the cardiac cycle, sudden cardiac arrest may follow. Students with congenital heart defects are at-risk as well.

But the outcome of sudden cardiac arrest is not necessarily death. Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) can restart the heart and save lives. But currently only 20 percent of schools have AEDs, and many have not purchased enough AEDs to support the entire campus.

AEDs are easy to use and cost-effective, continues Wright. He points to research showing that it takes kids only 60 seconds longer to use an AED than a trained paramedic. AED prices have dropped to the $1,500 range.

Twelve states have recognized the value of AED technology and mandated placement of AEDs in certain areas, including schools. Schools should implement cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and AED training as they develop a response plan; however, even an untrained witness to sudden cardiac arrest can use an AED to restart the heart, stresses Wright.

"In the future AEDs will be as prominent as fire extinguishers and smoke detectors," predicts Wright.

Safer Strolling To School

Walking to school can be great for kids. It reduces traffic and pollution and provides daily exercise and a sense of independence. Walkers arrive at school alert and ready to learn, says Connecticut Safe Routes to School Planner Francisco Gomes.

But according to recent statistics, walking can be dangerous; schoolchildren suffer the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities.

Communities in 20 states across the country have turned to Safe Routes to Schools to create safer walking conditions. The program begins with a survey of current conditions like sidewalks and signage. Next, it identifies critical walking routes. After planners solicit community feedback, a three-phase plan is developed.

The first phase addresses simple maintenance items that can be immediately remedied like crosswalk striping and hedge trimming. Next, the plan covers items that entail more time and cost like new speed humps and crosswalks. The final phase incorporates longer-term budget items such as building new sidewalks.

Typically, multiple community partners including schools, municipal officials and parents become involved with Safe Routes.

The average elementary school plan costs $8,000 and takes several months to complete. Funding is available from sources like school or public works budgets, PTA funds and private donations.

A FINAL FINANCIAL NOTE? One school bus + driver = the cost of one school
teacher and a classroom; less bussing could mean more teachers.

Tapping Technology To Keep Predators Out of School

Sex offenders and schools shouldn't mix. Unfortunately, they occasionally do. This fall registered offenders entered schools in Illinois and Florida, but they were stopped before they could interact with students.

The two schools were equipped with a Web-based system that includes a scanner to screen visitors' drivers' licenses and compares the visitor's name against the sex offender database in 43 states. If the visitor is registered in any of the states, a picture of the offender is instantly sent to the school. If it's a match, Raptor Technologies's V-soft program sends a text message or e-mail to law enforcement and school administrators within 10 seconds, enabling law enforcement officials to immediately handle the situation.

The company is working with the several additional states to develop a unique identifier like first and last name plus date of birth to enable the software to catch offenders registered in any state, says President Allan Measom.

The software is proving utility beyond nabbing sex offenders in schools. "Schools can stay up top of custody issues," explains Measom. If a non-custodial parent shows up at school office to retrieve a child, the software alerts staff. The open-architected software can be tied into other programs to track items like track volunteer hours or share real-time time and attendance data.

Setting the Stage for Spam-free Schools

E-mail spam is universal--even in schools. "Children are not protected and are receiving spam containing advertising for products like tobacco, alcohol and pornography," says Erin Barry, vice president of public relations for Unspam.

Although it is illegal to advertise these products to children, most states cannot enforce the law because e-mail addresses like school domain names are global. This makes it difficult to demonstrate that spammers have broken the law by targeting children.

This year, Utah and Michigan became the first states to enact legislation to establish child protection e-mail registries. Similar to a Do Not Call list, the registry allows schools to register their entire domain name. Utah-based technology firm Unspam operates the registry and manages the do not e-mail system for all registered addresses.

"It makes it much easier to catch a spammer and show that the law was broken," explains Barry.

Schools in the two states are not automatically registered with Unspam, but the process is simple. "Schools can register their entire domain name in less than five minutes by going to the appropriate Website for their state," continues Barry. When a spam violation occurs in Utah or Michigan, schools can report the violation on the Unspam website. Unspam sends a report to the state for prosecution.

Schools in the remaining 48 states have limited options for spam protection. It's technically possible to opt of spam on an individual basis, but the effort would be constant and ongoing.

Instead, Barry recommends that educators contact state legislators and request that the state establish a child-protection e-mail registry.