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Philadelphia schools to use drones to monitor campuses, protect students

Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images

The School District of Philadelphia recently announced plans to roll out the use of drones on school campuses to monitor for potential violence, the Chalkbeat reported.

On Wednesday, the district stated that it would expand its current safety measures to ensure the security of its students.

Superintendent Dr. Tony B. Watlington Sr. wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, “We consider our schools to be safe havens.”

During a Wednesday press conference, the district’s chief of school safety, Kevin Bethel, explained that the district is still in the early stages of planning the use of drones to watch over the schools’ grounds. The district aims to monitor “violence-prone areas without the need for police,” according to Chalkbeat.

In some instances, the drones will be piloted by the students. However, students would not monitor the drone footage. Bethel said, “We don’t want to put kids in a position where their … peers could construe it to be something negative.”

He also noted the community’s concern regarding increased surveillance. Bethel explained that the “core purpose” of the drones would be to “make sure that I’m keeping my children safe.”

“There’s no ulterior motive to try to look for,” Bethel added.

“Despite all of the things that you’ve seen across the city, and we’ve had some tragedy, our schools are the safest places for our kids to be,” Bethel said. “It is our job as adults to make sure we make it as safe as possible for them.”

The district’s Safe Path program, which recruits adults to patrol neighborhoods where students walk to and from campus, will be expanded to nine additional schools.

Additionally, the district has already hired 650 crossing guards and is still looking to recruit more. As part of its upgraded safety measures, the district also plans to update 150 analog cameras to digital over the next few years.

Students will no longer have to walk through intrusive metal detectors to enter school campuses. Instead, the district has upgraded to “minimally invasive gun detection systems” stationed at two school doorways. The new system does not require students to remove their backpacks.

According to Bethel, 18 guns were confiscated from students in the district during the previous school year. He hopes the upgraded security system will “not add to the trauma of our young people.”

Additionally, all district employees will receive ALICE active shooter response training.

Philadelphia schools will also see an increased police presence funded by a new $600,000 grant. Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw did not provide an estimate for how many additional officers the grant would allow the district to afford.

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