New emergency alert app could be coming to Missouri schools

Gov. Mike Parson

The process for implementing a system for reporting armed intruders is on hold until Gov. Mike Parson signs off on Missouri’s budget. | Photo courtesy of the Office of Gov. Mike Parson

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A new system for reporting armed intruders may be coming to Missouri school districts by the fall semester. The process for implementing the system is on hold until Gov. Mike Parson signs off on Missouri’s budget.

$1.9 million of state money was set aside to assist school districts in implementing a new app to report emergency situations during the spring legislative session.

For Missouri teachers, the app would make the process of reporting armed intruders faster and more efficient. One touch of a button on the app sends an alert out with no phone call necessary.

A Request for Proposal would be issued once Parson signs Missouri’s budget, the deadline for Parson’s signature is July 15. Once the RFP is issued by the Missouri Office of Administration, parties interested in building the app would apply and be selected.

The app could be in Missouri’s schools by the fall semester if the process of getting Parson’s signature on the budget and issuing an RFP goes smoothly. School districts are not mandated to implement the app, and legislators don’t expect the majority of schools to take part in the program.

“It connects the educator or administrator in real time with public safety officials at the federal, state and local levels. Because a lot of stuff gets lost in translation,” Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, said. “This would notify any and all parties that were applicable, all following under the same technology, essentially.”

Hough grew familiar with the system as a member of the Senate’s Transportation, Infrastructure, and Public Safety committee.

The alert system has garnered more urgency from those involved after the tragic mass shooting of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24.

“I think the educators that I’ve talked to since, you know, since what happened in Texas have said ‘any, and all tools that can keep our kids safer are going to be on the table,’” Hough said. “Of course, the governor hasn’t signed the budget bills yet we don’t exactly know where all that stuff lands yet.”

Once Parson signs off on the budget, Hough doesn’t see many hang-ups in getting the system in place in time for school in the fall.

“Usually the folks that put these apps together are usually pretty good at it … If we had 100 of them (Missouri school districts) that were wanting to be a part of this, I imagine it can get put together pretty quickly,” Hough said.

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a retired U.S. Army Officer and expert on lethal force has experience with emergency alert systems, he said implementation in Missouri can happen seamlessly and efficiently.

“This could be an immediate, proactive measure Missouri schools can take in preparation of the upcoming school year with no interruption to students and staff,” Grossman said.

The Missouri Department of Public Safety was not available to provide comment on the priority of the new system’s implementation. Work on budget projects cannot start until Parson signs off.

The Department of Public Safety has worked with Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) as DESE explores ways to ensure student safety.

“Whenever I meet with our school leaders, it’s always of the utmost importance to make sure that we’re doing everything to make sure that our public schools remain among the safest places,” Margie Vandeven, commissioner of DESE said.

“For our part we are working very closely with various partners throughout the state. Specifically, the Missouri Department of Public Safety to provide additional safety measures, and the Department of Mental Health, to make sure that leaders have the most up to date training and professional development.”

For some, preventative measures such as increased access to mental health resources stand as a priority in limiting gun violence. Sen. Hough has been a major advocate for increased mental health resources in Missouri.

“We’ve invested an incredible amount of money recently in mental health services, you know. My hope always is going to be that no one that wants help goes without it,” Hough said. “I think we’ve made some investments. I mean, there’s always more work to do. I will be happy to sit down and work with anybody who’s got constructive ideas on this, because I’m not gonna ever claim to be the expert here.”

Federal Gun Reform

Reports from the Uvalde, Texas mass shooting have revealed that law enforcement officers were unable to stop the gunman for more than hour,prompting a federal investigation. 

Going forward, gun reform and attempts at stopping gun violence could gain increased federal legislative attention.

Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt has recently opened the door to working with Democrats on “red flag” laws. Red flag laws would make it possible for law enforcement to take away firearms from individuals deemed “dangerous” with the approval of a judge.

“I’m very open to more red flag opportunities — though nobody has a stronger red flag than New York, I don’t think, and they just had an equally horrendous event,” Blunt said to Politico.

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