NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Over the past year, Metro Council and the State of Tennessee have invested millions of dollars to address school safety.
In the latest move to protect students, Metro Nashville Public Schools unanimously voted to increase a contract for video surveillance within school buildings.
A new Vanderbilt Health Poll showed school safety is a top concern for one-in-three Tennessee parents. The poll results are no surprise to school board officials who continue to make moves to keep students safe, especially within the MNPS District.
“Sixteen different views of what was going on in the school at that moment, it was during a transition period before school and also during a transition period, able to watch every door outside of the school and it was really quite impressive from a safety perspective,” described Erin O’Hara Block, an MNPS Board Member.
Block spoke up during a discussion about the district’s contract with System Integrations, Inc. which provides security cameras within the district.
The MNPS Board unanimously approved to increase funds for the camera system as part of the Public School Security Grant.
During the board meeting, a question was raised about why part of the project included funds coming from the district. Director of School Dr. Adrienne Battle explained that because the money is coming from a safety grant. To utilize the entire grant, school funds must be included in case the project goes over budget.
The discussion also raised questions about why the added money is needed. It was explained that “as the technology improves, as cameras themselves improve and the resolution gets higher, as we are able to layer in things like the artificial intelligence for the gun detection, those things take up additional…as we add cameras, those things take up additional server space and capacity.”
However, others disagree with the use of the money. Before the vote, MNPS teacher Hallie Trauger spoke during the public comment period against the use of the contract.
“Tonight I am here to ask that you pull the System Integrations contract from the consent agenda,” Trauger said before the board. “I have not seen any evidence that it’s effective at keeping our students safe at school. I do know that there are national studies that cast doubt on the effectiveness of video surveillance of all types and I know that when a gun was brought into my own school after hours, it was discovered by a person, not by the software.”
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While she agrees safety should always be a priority, Trauger argued one of the biggest ways to curb potential problems is to invest in more staff.
“I believe to build safety in our schools, we should be investing not in surveillance and highly questionable image recognition technology, but in ensuring our schools are fully staffed by carrying and supportive adults,” she said during the public comment period.
Next week, MNPS hopes to begin using a gun detection software from Omnilert that has been integrated into their surveillance cameras. Last year, Metro Council approved a $1 million contract for the technology.