By Christie Duffy
The school shooting in Washington State that left three students dead and three more injured is a tragic reminder of the new reality of school security.
“Times have changed. It’s a different world that we live in today,” said Bergen County Police Communications Director Capt. Mark Lepinski.
One school in New Jersey is testing a new way to respond to emergency situations, like the threat of an active shooter.
“Our hope is that it never happens, but yes that is the main reason to be able to have something in your fingertip like this,” said Bergen County Technical Schools Assistant Superintendent Andrea Sheridan.
“This is the first school utilizing this device in the country,” Lepinski said.
Bergen County Technical High School in Paramus started using a safety badge this school year.
This new device means that with just a push of the button, help is on the way.
“Not only the administrative team in my building but the county police are a finger push away if I need them,” said Bergen County Technical High School science teacher Liz Henriquez.
“It gives me peace of mind that if anything were to happen, I have the ability to react quickly,” said Spanish teacher Kathleen Syron-Briceno.
“This is instant. If something should happen, we can call immediately,” said Principal Carole Terrizzi.
Teachers — who wear the device as they move around the classroom — are now directly connected to school security, administrators and police.
The assistant superintendent says the badges cost around $300 a piece. After a federal grant covered about half of that cost, the school ended up paying $24,000 in all for the devices.
When asked if the cost is worth it, Sheridan said, “Absolutely. I don’t know anything that could be better than this right now.”
Teacher Henriquez says the device has already come in handy, when a student suddenly got very sick.
“I called for assistance on the button — for the nurse — and they were there probably within 25 seconds,” she said. When asked if that was different, she replied, “Very different from before. Because in times past, I would have either left my own class to go get help or I would have to go all the way back to the back of the classroom to call down to the office to get some help.”
District officials say that since they got these little devices, they’ve been fielding calls from at least half a dozen other school districts in New Jersey who want to know how they can get them too.