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Graffiti, vaping, sextortion, drugs: A new school app may report school safety issues

Graffiti. A broken window or a compromised fence. Vape in the bathroom. A sextortion threat. A student who talked about bringing a gun to class.

Faced with increasing demands to make Los Angeles Unified School District campuses safer, the district is promoting a new app for students, parents, staff, and community members to anonymously report these and other types of concerns that fall outside the scope of emergency police response. A second app, which works strictly for emergency reporting, is available to school employees and identifies the sender’s location.

Reports from both applications will be forwarded to school police. Officials insist the apps will provide responsiveness and simplicity, rather than add redundancy or technological confusion.

He applications were exhibited during a Board of Education meeting that drew protesters outside the district headquarters calling for the removal of school police right outside the district headquarters, a sign of ongoing tension within the school system over how best to deal with school safety.

The app available to everyone is called Los Angeles Schools Anonymous Reporting, or LASAR, and is designed “to increase community-focused public safety in and around our schools.”

Upon receipt of a report, the school police watch commander will “evaluate the reported incident and determine the necessary resource to dispatch,” according to the staff report.

“The ability for the community, for students and the workforce, for example, to automatically broadcast in real time, anonymously or not, potential threats to a student, to a school, is critically important,” the superintendent said. Los Angeles schools. Alberto Carvalho.

There is no specific limitation on what can be reported, but this is not, for example, the forum to discuss grades or academic topics.

The security apps are among four apps being rolled out, including one that allows parents to access student records from their phones. . The other allows families and employees to consult general information and make requests. Board member Nick Melvoin expressed concern about going from too few mobile options to too many confusing options.

He was assured that even with four apps, the functionality was simpler than what families and employees face today trying to communicate the right way with the right person. And that the effort would evolve.

Board chair Jackie Goldberg said she wanted to make sure there was a human being available to help people, and she received some reassurance.

In an interview, the high school vice president of the district’s teachers’ union, Julie Van Winkle, said she was concerned about going to the police first, especially for non-emergency matters.

“If a student has a non-emergency problem, they don’t need to call the police,” Van Winkle said. “Even in many emergencies, I would say there are different ways that we can handle it instead of calling the police right away, because sometimes that will escalate a violent situation.”

He also questioned the priority of developing such apps when, he said, many classrooms lack working phones that allow teachers to communicate directly with the office.

“We need to prioritize an investment in our facilities and an investment in staff that can support our schools and keep them safe, and then we don’t need to call the police,” Van Winkle said.

Van Winkle participated in a demonstration Tuesday organized by groups calling for the removal of school police. The rally included about 50 participants, who also called for expanding the Black Student Achievement Plan, expanding mental health resources for all students, and developing non-police based security alternatives.

In support of their agenda, the groups presented results based on a survey conducted by student activists at their schools. According to the survey, 87% of black students feel they are benefiting from the achievement plan, but 49% feel their schools lack sufficient mental health resources. The survey was conducted by student activists at 100 schools and collected more than 2,300 responses, including about 400 from black students, according to protest organizers.

District officials said they don’t know the extent to which other K-12 school systems use an anonymous reporting app; They know of no other examples. They added that USC and a few other universities have a similar app. A “single component” is making the app available to community members, they said.

The application allows you to take photos or videos and includes geolocation, which allows the police to know where the incident was reported from. The user can note if the reported incident took place elsewhere.

The second application is for a situation where an active offender situation is occurring.

The app is designed to work only within the boundaries of the school district. Just like the other app, it automatically detects the user’s location. To trigger an alert, a person presses a button for three seconds.

This app is essentially an internal alternate 911 system, available to staff only. Students who report an emergency on their phones will continue to dial 911.

One feature allows users to send text information about their emergency situation, something that is not possible with a 911 call. An emergency alert goes directly to the top of watch commanders’ queue along with an emergency alert. Audio. The other allows families and employees to consult general information.

Officials said other K-12 districts are already using such an emergency app. Some universities provide a portable panic button.

The apps were developed by Kokomo24/7. The non-emergency app was developed with a $123,000 federal grant and will cost about $93,000 a year to maintain, Senior Director of Operations Alfonso Webb said. Figures were not immediately available for the emergency app.

The head of the administrators union, which includes directors, said both apps had positive potential.

“I think having apps that allow staff to report disturbances or any criminal or disruptive behavior will improve security,” said Nery Paiz, director of Los Angeles Associate Administrators.

Both apps were in development before Carvalho’s arrival a little over a year ago. The school principal has made them a component of his strategic plan, as well as his campus security strategy.

Carvalho has not yet submitted his comprehensive school safety plan.