Waco ISD plans to install artificial intelligence to enhance security

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 6:32 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - One year after the fatal school shooting in Uvalde, Waco ISD is continuing its efforts to improve safety on school campuses by using artificial intelligence.

Since that tragic day, Waco ISD has seen safety concerns come up, including parents and board members concerns about proposed classroom designs to consist of large glass walls.

A hoax social media post about an active shooter on Waco High School campus left students, staff and parents on edge.

Most recently, weapons were found on campus, causing the district to reevaluate and strengthen security.

“Anytime anything happens, you begin to reevaluate what you’ve got and what you might need to be working on, so we did just that,” Dr. Susan Kincannon, who is the Waco ISD Superintendent, said.

She said weeks after four guns were found on Waco High’s campus, the district installed metal detectors in high schools and enforced a district-wide clear backpack policy.

“What we’ve observed is that it’s made a difference in terms of overall climate and just student behavior in general,” she said. “It’s like it made the kids stand up a little taller and understand that we’re very serious about behavior.”

Now, they are looking to the future, replacing those metal detectors with Evolv Express, which are artificial intelligence sensors that only alert security when a threatening item is picked up by the system.

“They can walk side-by-side,” Jill Lemond, the Director of Education for Evolv Technology, said. “It doesn’t need to be single file, and, then, you’re only stopped to be searched in the event that something alerts.”

The technology is used at concerts or major venues, preventing more than 170,000 weapons from entering those events in 2022.

“Our mission here is to just make spaces safer to relieve people of that anxiety about gun violence,” she said.

Kincannon said, when students come back to campus in the Fall, the new sensors will be ready.

“It’s a game changer,” she said. “It really will make a huge difference. We did pilot it for a week and just tremendous difference between the two products.”

In addition to the technology, the district will also be upgrading fencing, adding silent panic alarms, and continuing to reevaluate based on regular state audits.

“We certainly want adults to not let their guard down, but we want to take every precaution we can to make sure that our students are safe,” she said.