Panic buttons could make schools safer

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School safety continues to be of great concern to parents and the general public across the nation. Violence in schools, including shootings, has become too prevalent.

But what can be done to best protect children from the deranged people behind these insidious acts?

That’s a question that has yet to be answered, although a few school districts in Washington state have weighed in with an interesting approach — install panic buttons.

In theory, it seems to be a great idea. Panic buttons have been used on college campuses (including Whitman College) to protect students, particularly if they are walking alone at night.

The Bellingham School District is the latest district to take this approach. The district will be installing panic buttons at each school in strategic locations of each building. The buttons are linked directly to local law enforcement,

“No reason to pick up a phone,” said Bellingham Assistant Superintendent Ron Cowan. He said 911 dispatchers will be able to see and hear what’s going on inside the school when the alarm is sounded.

The idea of installing the panic buttons was a suggestion from Bellingham law enforcement. It’s not a new idea, however. Grandview Middle School was the first in the state to take this action.

And it is highly likely more school districts or individual schools in this state will follow. The Legislature has provided $7 million in grants to 80 school districts. Bellingham used some of the money from a $160 million school bond that had been earmarked for public safety to obtain the state grant, which required a local match.

The districtwide panic button installation wasn’t cheap — $440,000.

They could be worth the cost if even one life is saved.

Our local school districts should keep an eye on what’s going on in Grandview and Bellingham to see if this type of technology might be right for our communities.

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