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New technology used for school safety

The term school safety carries a lot of weight these days.

Finding the perfect plan to keep students safe in the event of any emergency is a challenge all districts are working to tackle. There are grants, loans, equipment and new technologies to help the efforts.

ABC 57 News is taking a deeper look at facial recognition tools-that could eventually end up on your child's campus.

We've seen it on the big screen-from science fiction to spy thrillers. There are all kinds of security scans-faces, eyes, hands, DNA. The state of the art technology is starting to become more common, with more programs and products on the market.

Schools across the country are beginning to test out the idea.

A technology company, Real Networks, has even started to offer a program and monitoring to any school in THE U. S. for free. It’s called SAFR.

The company doesn't provide the hardware, but it does provide the program and the monthly support.

“The commercial product generally is about $100 per camera per month, you know for a school with 10-15 cameras that's $1500 a month they would be spending on it,” said Mike Vance the Head of Product for SAFR.

The execs at Real Networks that produced SAFR say they're offering this free to schools because many are parents themselves and wanted to their part to help make schools safer places.

“For our technology, giving it away for free, it really enables the schools to get into this to use the cameras they already have instead of trying to connect to other services," said Vance.

But will you find the technology in Michiana schools?

According to Vance, there is interest in the area, but ABC 57 contacted more than a dozen local districts and i couldn't find one implementing the technology.

Many schools in indiana are taking advantage of the free metal detectors the offered by the state in the wake of the Noblesville shooting, like Michigan City Area Schools.

“We applied for 24 metal detectors based on our overall enrollment for our school system,” said Wendel McColoum, the Asst. Superintendent with Michigan City Area Schools.

McColoum said the schools work closely with the police and sheriff’s departments. There are two school resource officers, there are cameras and surveillance systems, but facial recognition is not in the plans.

“Things that we are doing now are things that we feel secure about, they're best practices, trainings that we’ve gone to," said McColoum.

Over in Benton Harbor, they are declining the technology as well, for now.

“We're a fairly small district and most of our adults get to know all of the children in the school," said Dr. Robert Herrera, the Superintendent of Benton Harbor Area Schools.

Herrera said Benton Harbor Schools staff shouldn't rely on technology to know who should and shouldn't be on campus and he said it’s not going to necessarily stop a gunman.

“It doesn't tell you if one of your students is armed," said Herrera.

“I’d like to be a little patient on that level of technology to see what the real return on the investment is,” said Herrera.

For now, Benton Harbor is working on similar practices as Michigan City Area Schools, including building up student teacher relationships for a safer environment.

“When students feel like the adults are really focused on them and providing programming that meets their needs and they're finding success then obviously you get better adult student relationships, you get better student to student relationships and good things happen in those positive cultures," said Herrera.

Both districts agree, school safety is an ever evolving process and eventually one day this could be a tool in their safety arsenal.

“I'm sure as we go on here within the next year or two, there's going to be several technologies that's going to be created or put in place," said McColoum.

It's something to watch and see over the next several years in Michiana.

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