Missouri schools ramp up use of safety app amid a rise in mass shootings | #schoolsaftey

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — About one in five Missouri school districts have accepted an offer to install an app designed to protect students and school employees during an active shooter event.

The Missouri Department of Public Safety said Wednesday that 114 districts and charter schools representing 652 school buildings in the state have launched or are preparing to launch the alert system purchased by Gov. Mike Parson’s administration earlier this year.

The app by Texas-based Raptor Technologies already had been in use by six other school districts, meaning a total of 707 schools are equipped with the mobile phone-based system.

Public Safety spokesman Mike O’Connell said some schools were already using similar alert systems provided by other companies, meaning the number of districts covered may be larger.

“We’re encouraged by the initial response. This is an important tool that is being made available to school districts at no cost. When it comes to school safety and emergency response, every second counts,” O’Connell said.

The use of the app comes as St. Louis school and police officials received high marks for their response to an active shooter in October 2022 at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School and Collegiate School of Medicine and Biosciences in St. Louis, which resulted in the death of a CVPA student and a teacher.

Rapid response times allowed police to be on the scene and kill the shooter within 14 minutes of the first alert going out.

The push to get the app comes as mass killings have skyrocketed this year, averaging about one per week, according to an analysis by the Associated Press and USA Today.

The app, which will cost the state up to $3.4 million, is seen as an alternative to a statewide crackdown on the availability of firearms, which has run into roadblocks in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

A push this year to enact red flag laws and other limits on gun ownership, including barring minors from openly carrying weapons on St. Louis streets, went nowhere during the spring legislative session.

Instead, the governor, also a Republican, has pushed for the app and for more than $50 million to help schools fortify their campuses to make it harder for a shooter to penetrate.

The money will help school districts upgrade safety features in their buildings, ranging from door locks, bleeding control kits and automatic external defibrillators.

“We want all students across Missouri to have the opportunity to learn in safe and secure schools,” Parson said when he unveiled the free app in May.

In addition to calling 911, the app also notifies a separate network of first responders that a shooting or armed intrusion has occurred at a specific location, enabling the nearest law enforcement officer to get to the scene as quickly as possible.

O’Connell said schools that contact Raptor by June 30 will be able to put the system in place for the start of the new school term in the fall. Districts that sign up by Sept. 11 will be able to launch in November.

“We will continue to advance school safety and the ability to quickly respond to threats to Missouri’s students and educators,” Parson added.

In its bid, Raptor said it is a “trusted school safety partner” to more than 37,000 schools nationwide, including some that have been the scenes of mass killings.

With state lawmakers unlikely to impose stricter firearms laws, a new nonprofit, Sensible Missouri, hopes to launch a petition drive to put a question on the 2024 statewide ballot that would allow Missouri counties, and also the city of St. Louis, to enact gun restrictions tougher than those in state law.

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