While school shootings remain rare, there have already been 17 school shootings in 2018 alone. That's the highest number since 1999, a year that will forever live in infamy after the Columbine High School massacre, in which two students shot and killed 12 students and one teacher and injured 21 others, before taking their own lives.
"The Washington Post" determined in an almost year-long investigation that in the two decades since, a total of at least 141 children, teachers, and administrators have been killed in campus assaults, with another 287 injured. A much larger group of students and faculty who were on school grounds during the mass shootings -- 215,000 to be exact -- bear the emotional scars of campus gun violence, which can lead to mental illness: depression, anxiety, and, of course, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
To combat mass school shootings, developers are arming school personnel and even parents and students with apps designed to keep students safe from guns.
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For teachers and school administrators
The TABS webapp, which stands for Tracking Appropriate Behaviors, has four main functions: an in-app attendance feature, used to mark students present, tardy, or absent; digital hall passes to enable them to leave their classrooms for a predetermined period of time and notify them when it's time to return; a positive behavior incentive system that tracks students' good and troublesome behavior; and a crisis management tool.
The crisis management tool, which helps with lockdowns and instant messaging between on-campus teachers and administrators, is incredibly helpful once you're already under threat. With this tool, teachers can receive a lockdown notification from the administration, acknowledge receipt, and report as safe or communicate dangers. After a 30-day free trial, annual subscriptions run from $3,000 to 4,000 per year depending on school size, and $2,500 a year after that.
With pricing plans that start as low as $49.99 per month, Lokdown for iOS is a cross-platform cloud-based app to initiate an emergency building lockdown and notify all relevant teachers, administrators, emergency personnel, and even authorities via email and text messaging. By responding, teachers can alert the administration and crisis team that they are safe, update their location or status, or notify personnel of a medical emergency that needs tending to. Afterward, once the situation stabilizes, the app can be used to lift the lockdown.
Guard911 has developed two mobile panic button apps to shield elementary school children, high schoolers, and college-age students from gun violence: SchoolGuard for K-12 school staff and CampusGuard for college professors and administrators.
The app works as follows: During an active school shooting emergency, a school personnel member presses the main panic button in the app and as 911 is automatically dialed, all on and off-duty law enforcement officers within close proximity, who have joined the Hero911 Network (a nonprofit organization for law enforcement officers, dedicated to awareness of school shootings) are alerted, as well as all school staff via intra-school alert, and all other protected schools within a five-mile radius. The service, which includes unlimited downloads for staff, costs $1,000 to set up and then a $99 monthly service fee per property.
For students and parents
Developed by Sandy Hook Promise (a nonprofit organization started after the devastating Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to provide programs and practices to protect kids from gun violence), the free Say Something Anonymous Reporting System app enables students, parents, and other concerned individuals to submit secure and anonymous reports about potentially violent or self-harming individuals to a live 24/7 crisis center operator. This way, school administrators and authorities can intervene before any school violence occurs.
In the case of an emergency, Rave Mobile Safety's free Rave Guardian app enables quick and easy communication with the people you trust most -- friends, family, colleagues, campus safety officials, and hundreds of 911 call centers. With the app, you can send out an emergency alert about an active shooter and share your status, location, and pertinent medical info, if you're injured.
Rave Mobile Safety's other free app, Rave Panic Button, has you tapping one of five panic buttons on the app -- Fire, Police, Medical, 911 Other, and Active Shooter -- to notify emergency personnel of your specific threat. If you tap the button at a participating campus, which must pay to use the service, Rave Panic Button will both dial 911 and provide real-time info to responders -- including type of emergency, building floor plans, and emergency response plans, courtesy of Rave's Smart911 technology -- as well as alert school personnel to the threat.
PikMyKid, developed to aid parents and teachers in tracking students during and after hectic school pickup times, also has a panic button that allows school employees to quickly notify first responders (and people they're close to) of their location, and send them blueprints of school buildings, (thanks to FacilityONE, a company that makes interactive, digital blueprints) so they can respond more quickly. The app is free to use for children and parents, but schools are charged $3,000 to $4,000 a year depending on their size, to operate the system.
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- While mass school shootings remain rare, with 17 reported so far in 2018 alone, they're at their highest number since 1999.
- A slew of developers have released apps for schools, students, and parents to help combat the casualties and injuries by initiating lockdowns, tracking student and teacher whereabouts, and enabling communication among colleagues and between schools and police.
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