On May 18, 1927, the School treasurer Andrew Kehoe in Bath, Michigan, after killing his wife and destroying his house and farm, Kehoe blew up the Bath Consolidated School by detonating dynamite in the school basement, killing 38 people, mostly children. He then brought his car to the front of the school and blew it up by detonating the dynamite with a single shot from the inside of his vehicle, killing himself and four others. This was the deadliest act of mass murder at a school in the United States.
The earliest known shooting to happen on school property in the United States was the Pontiac’s Rebellion school massacre on July 26, 1764, where four native American Lenapes in retaliation of a previous event entered the schoolhouse near present-day Greencastle, Pennsylvania, shooting the schoolmaster Enoch Brown, and killing nine students. Only two students survived.
For over 200 years in the U.S., there have been reported shootings and bombing attempts in schools but we are all too aware that debating anyone on gun control or ownership in 2018 is a nonstarter when we have two distinct points of views here in the U.S. about who can own and carry a firearm. The White House tweeted about adding armed military drones after the Parkland incident which we all know that would cause an uproar from both the right and the left pundits if it were even discussed in a House committee. So this article is not about gun control or flying drones but about how we can use technology and school compliance to help stem the tide of school shootings and massacres.
First, let me talk about the past use of technology and how we can converge that with today’s leap in technology.
I grew up in what is now a beautiful gentrified neighborhood known as Humboldt Park in Chicago but during its tumultuous years during the 70s and 80s, it went through a period of violence and I was not looking forward to going to a school in an adjacent neighborhood that was reportedly rougher than mine. Unfortunate for me at the time, I lived one house away from the zone line that would have kept me at my local neighborhood high school which was almost walking distance from my house and because of that zoning, I was sent to the high school I dreaded going to in that rough part of town. Metal detectors awaited us every morning and, at that time, they were the only preventive technology available.
Manned by the school’s security guards, the metal detectors were intimidating and effective enough to thwart off just about any bad actors at every entry point. Our bookbags were also scanned for knives, guns or any sharp objects that could’ve been used as weapons while we were on school property. School fights still happened but they were mostly tussles that were quickly handled by school authorities. Because of the safety, It actually became a great learning environment and because of the school’s tight security, we never experienced anything morbid or worried about serious injury while we were in school. The security personnel was responsive and I felt safe within our school walls.
Two years later, I transferred to an upscale business high school located in downtown Chicago. To my surprise, I found out that my new school also had metal detectors. In such a safe environment, I felt it was an overkill since I knew my fellow students in suburban schools weren’t subject to that same level of scrutiny. As outrageous as that seemed to me back then in the 80’s, I do remember feeling safe inside the school. But, as good as metal detectors were at the time, they could not protect us from any violence in the school parking lots or just outside of the school’s walls. We did have security cameras covering those perimeters but they were only used to playback an incident after harm was already done.
Cut to 2018, we find ourselves in an era where we need to recognize danger and deter bad actors from making a statement by going out with a blaze of glory with a dangerous weapon. They need to be recognized and stopped before they get anywhere near an entry point of a school. Metal detectors may still be used in schools but surveillance cameras with Artificial Intelligence which is also known as A.I. happen to be a more effective way to spot danger before it destabilizes a school. With the A.I. behavior detectors embedded in the security cameras, they will be able to notify security personnel or quickly lock entry doors when they recognize a particular face or license plate that’s been blacklisted by school authorities from entering a parking lot or coming onto school property. The A.I. cameras can also identify behaviors such as loitering, people gathering or possible fighting as well as two or more people tussling with each other. They can also identify someone carrying a weapon or wearing a gas mask like the most recent shooter did in Parkland, Florida. In 2018, security cameras with Artificial intelligence are not perfect but they are more reliable than not and with machine learning, they become better at recognizing possible situations versus teenagers being boisterous and having a good time. In other words, being teenagers.
When the camera system’s A.I. alerts security personnel to take action, the security detail can quickly monitor the person or persons being surveilled from their mobile devices in real time to instantly know who, when and where that person is and how to respond.
If this sounds a little too much like the beginning of big brother in private and public schools, I’m here to ensure you that it definitely is!
Organizations like the ACLU will shout from the rooftops about civil liberties being trampled on and gun rights activists will lobby to allow teachers and school personnel to carry firearms but this is an article about saving student lives now, not perpetuating rhetoric so let’s tackle the biggest issue of using Artificial intelligence on school property.
Schools today have to tackle the slings and arrows of outrages fortune we know as teenage hormones with impressionable minds. If a disturbed student or individual see the name of the last shooter splashed on every news outlet and cycle, then they may want to feel as important as the last shooter during their blaze of glory and follow the same pattern of destruction. That is why new school compliances have to be adopted and implemented by public and private schools. Rules of engagement have to be codified, practiced and drilled. Complacency is not an option. Security personnel needs to be notified if a certain student or parent exhibit these codified behaviors. Also, if a student is expelled or kicked off school property for inappropriate behavior, the security cameras with Artificial Intelligence should be updated with their faces and license plate of their vehicle or their parent’s vehicle to temporarily blacklist them until there is ample reassurance that the situation has been nullified. AI systems can notify security detail immediately when they show up to school property uninvited.
How to confront these exhibited behaviors from bad actors should be agreed upon by the school authorities beforehand.
Does this sound familiar? It should. These are the same cameras implemented in stadiums and airports what was implemented in just about every airport in the nation. If we treat schools like we treat these spaces, a place where individuals can get to their destination or in the case of students, diplomas safely, we would have far fewer incidents to mourn over. Airports and stadiums are not waiting for gun debates or the civil liberty of unwanted searches to come to a conclusion in the court of opinion. They need to protect people as safely as possible to keep the public’s confidence.
With these measures, we all know that there will be honest and not so honest mistakes with security misidentifying students and visitor behavior but these mistakes can be mitigated and improved upon continuously. With a written code of conduct which acts as a living constitution for the school or school districts, technology can be implemented more fairly.
A good code of engagement should pass the tests of racial profiling or profiling kids with autistic behavior. No codified solution will be perfect but by putting the work in now with the input of lawyers, teachers, parents, local police, civil rights activists and most of all students, schools can create a code of engagement for security with the use of technology that helps protects civil liberties as well as the lives of students and teachers.
This is what Japan is implementing for the 2020 Olympics. The technology would cost a U.S. school half the cost of adding an extra security guard for a year.