NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - New technology is helping keep schools safer. The Nacogdoches County Sheriff’s Department can now access surveillance cameras within Etoile schools in real time.
Surveillance cameras are as common as visitor check-in requirements on school campuses. That gave Nacogdoches County Sheriff Jason Bridges a thought.
“Why can’t we tap into these camera systems for real-time information?”
The technology is there. Web-based software gives 911 dispatchers real-time access to school cameras, but cost restraints are why few districts use the various apps. Etoile ISD is the exception.
"We wanted to have ease of access for the dispatcher in the event that it was a real-time emergency,” explains Etoile ISD Superintendent Sarah Hottman regarding the $30,000 spent on 28 cameras and the system that goes with it.
Cameras in Etoile schools are in common gathering spots, like the cafeteria, gymnasium and outside the buildings.
“And if we made a 911 call, they (dispatchers) could automatically zip over to our system, log in, and see what was going on in real time," said Hottman.
The real-time access provides parent Samantha Seale peace of mind.
"It takes at least 30 minutes for somebody, ambulance, fire, a cop, whatever the case may be to get to the school,” said Seale. “So at least they know what's going on. They can keep up in real time."
A Memorandum of Understanding will be signed this week between Etoile ISD and Nacogdoches County. The legal document clearly states the county is not a monitoring service.
"They would never dial in or access it unless it was a 911 emergency," said Hottman.
Bridges explained, “They’re allowing us to tap into it when a law enforcement response is needed; it’s an emergency type situation.”
Which is a time when priorities suddenly change, says school principle Adam Craft.
"In an active shooter situation, privacy is not really the major concern. It's saving lives."
We called upon the Texas School Safety Center for its research findings.
School safety specialist Tom Kelley stated, “The question is usually if the potential benefits outweigh any of the drawbacks. We have not experienced any problems or complaints with these programs. We are pleased that districts are collaborating with local responders to bring safety and security solutions to their schools and communities.”