Oct 27, 2022 - News

Schools turn to Colorado-made tech to prevent shootings

Illustration of a person hanging onto a closing laptop.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

To prevent mass shootings, education leaders in Colorado and across the nation are increasingly turning to technology.

State of tech: Two Colorado companies typify the different approaches being tested to prevent violence and respond to active shooters.

The assessment tool Bloomsights monitors student well-being and classroom climate in 75 schools nationwide — including dozens in Colorado — as a way to detect threats before they materialize.

  • Students complete online surveys with questions about school life that are based on 16 research-checked indicators related to mental and physical health. The results are provided to school administrators and teachers on a monthly basis.
  • "You get this much broader kind of early warning system," said Fort Collins-based co-founder Adam Rockenbach, who taught in the L.A. Unified School District for 13 years before turning to technology.

On the other end of the security equation, former Denver police SWAT team member Brett Titus founded LifeSpot, a mobile app launched two years ago that is designed to accelerate a response to active threats. It's being used in five states and more than 50 Colorado schools.

  • Teachers and law enforcement can see a map with the location of the reported threat in relation to their location. And app users can connect directly with law enforcement to avoid 911 call delays.
  • It's in use in San Antonio schools, through connections Titus made in law enforcement, and it’s expanding to medical centers and entertainment venues.

The big picture: U.S. school districts are spending as much as $3 billion on security technology, from cameras and metal detectors to threat alert and law enforcement response systems.

Yes, but: Much of the technology is unproven, if not deficient, as demonstrated by the shooting at Robb Elementary that killed 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde. A teacher triggered a mobile app-based alert system, but the warning didn't get to all personnel.

  • In other cases, fatigue from false alarms renders systems irrelevant, and the patchwork of technology complicates coordinated responses.

An independent study from the Rand Corporation found two-way communication, video surveillance and emergency alerts are the most appropriate technological applications. But experts gave lower ratings to violence predictive technology and metal detectors.

  • "We're talking about our children, so, you’re damned right, schools should be skeptical," Titus acknowledged.

Related: Colorado schools arming more teachers after Uvalde shooting ... John and Maria Castillo are now leading advocates for arming teachers


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