EBR school board members express mixed opinions over new security proposal to give staff ‘panic badges’

East Baton Rouge Parish School Board members expressed mixed opinions over a new proposal to boost security across the district.
Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 10:56 PM CDT

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - East Baton Rouge Parish School Board members expressed mixed opinions over a new proposal to boost security across the district.

The plan includes giving school employees a badge that would act as a mobile panic button. The device allows teachers, faculty and staff to press a button in the event of an emergency, such as an active shooter, and immediately alert administrators and first responders.

Atlanta-based company Centegix would provide the badges. The group currently provides security services to around 4,000 schools across the country.

“All staff will be able to hit this to get immediate assistance and that’s if an altercation breaks out, if there’s an active shooter, someone has a medical emergency, and it can also operate without cellphones or Wi-Fi,” Ben Lemoine, Director of Communications & Public Relations for the East Baton Rouge Parish School System.

At Thursday’s school board meeting, members agreed that more security is needed, especially after the recent deadly shooting in Nashville in March.

However, some members were split about the move, mostly because of the price tag.

The cost to implement the new plan would cost the district $2.3 million.

“My problem is I’m looking at the funding, the cost, when there’s so many other things that we could do to make our schools secure,” school board member Cliff Lewis said.

Lewis believes the idea could benefit the district, but he would like to see that money go towards other security measures, such as more fencing around schools, more cameras, or hiring more school resource officers (SRO’s).

“You can’t put a price tag on safety, but I think we really need to make sure that we’re getting our money’s worth with this. We talked earlier today about simple fencing, and control access doors, and all these other things that we can do,” Lewis said.

School Board President Dadrius Lanus believes this is worth the investment.

“If you ask me whether or not a dollar amount is going to suffice for somebody losing a life when you talk to other districts and you see what has happened there who have had those active shooter incidents on campus, a lot of them are wishing that they made the right preventative changes early on, so they didn’t have to go through that,” Lanus said.

If this passes the badges would cover 89 facilities in Baton Rouge, which includes about 6,000 staff members.”If it’s going to cut down on response times, if it’s going to add safety to our community as a whole, I believe it is the right thing to do,” Lanus said.

According to Lanus, the school board will not make a final decision until after next year’s budget is approved.

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