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Texas School For The Deaf Launches School Safety Apps For Students, Employees

The Texas School for the Deaf
Miguel Gutierrez Jr.
The Texas School for the Deaf has rolled out two apps aimed at preventing school violence.

The Texas School for the Deaf is launching two apps to help implement a new state law aimed at preventing school violence and promoting school safety.

Senate Bill 11 was passed by the Texas Legislature last year after the 2018 mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in the Houston area.

One app, called the Smart Button Instant Panic Button, is exclusively for School for the Deaf employees.

"It's an instant panic button in the school employees' pocket, where they can press the button for three seconds and instantly notify triage teams, principal groups, and/or the superintendent as well as first responders, quickly and instantly within three seconds about a specific type of incident," said Gregory Bender, the app's founder and CEO.

The school's superintendent, Claire Bugen, said it will be especially helpful in emergency situations, with so many people spread across their 67-acre campus.

"Sixty percent of our faculty and staff are deaf," she said. "So, we have a lot of deaf people, and, of course, they will use the e-mail and the texting button to communicate, or the two-way chat because that can go through text and e-mail as well."

The School for the Deaf has also rolled out an app just for students called Anonymous Alerts, also created by Bender.

"That's where a student can place a report – about bullying, depression, possible weapons on campus, could be drugs, possible other situations – 100 percent anonymously, and then that principal can have an anonymous two-way dialogue uncovering more information from that student," Bender said.

He said his company services about 8,000 schools nationwide, and about 150 school districts in Texas are using both apps.

He said since one size doesn't fit all, schools can tailor the apps to their own specific needs.

Superintendent Bugen said her school already made a few changes to Anonymous Alerts to benefit the students.

"We customized it in such a way that if it was depression or a self-harm threat, it went immediately to a counselor or to a social worker," added Bugen.

After all the training is complete, Bugen hopes to have everyone at The Texas School for the Deaf using the apps by the end of this month.

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