TN bill would provide funding for wearable alert buttons for teachers

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – A bill in the Tennessee legislature would provide grant funding to school systems to purchase a new emergency alert system.

The emergency alert system would be worn around a teacher’s neck and have three buttons for different emergencies. One button would be used for an active shooter, a second for behavioral issues with a student, and a third for medical emergencies.

When a button is pushed the device can send real-time audio and video to law enforcement in an emergency.

“I thought it was interesting and I can understand the thought process behind it, but I think we need to look at it very in-depth and see are there potential pitfalls,” said Greeneville Director of Schools Steve Starnes. “I can see some benefit to it as well.”

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Starnes told News Channel 11 that there are factors to consider before a decision can be made on whether the school system wants to implement the new device in the schools.

“I think it’s critical that teachers have a way to immediately contact the office in a crisis or emergency situation,” Starnes said. “Making sure that it is always available and always working for our teachers is critical. The camera functionality, that adds an extra layer.”

Another thing Greeneville City Schools will consider is the amount of funding received through the grants.

“In a large school setting, you’re looking at a sizable investment versus a small school, so I think all that has to weigh in,” Starnes said.

Greeneville City Schools has already started implementing different safety features into schools with grant funding already received.

“Just thinking about what we received this year, I don’t know if the grant would cover the total cost of implementing this,” Starnes said. “There would be a need to infuse local funds, partner that with state funds as well, if this is something that’s chosen to be implemented.”

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Roy Milton, a school resource officer at Tusculum View Elementary, said anything that can alert law enforcement and emergency personnel faster is a positive.

“Negatives would be if the teacher’s wearing it, if it gets pushed on accident or something like that, that could be a negative,” Milton said.

Starnes said the school system will look into acquiring the devices if the bill passes.

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