How Licking Heights Local School District Enhances Learning with a Flock Safety Falcon® Perimeter
January 3, 2024
Based in Pataskala, Ohio – just 20 minutes outside of Columbus – Licking Heights is one of the fastest-growing school districts in the state. The K-12 district includes six buildings, for a total enrollment of more than 5,000 students. Having a safe environment for students and staff is a top priority for school administrators.
In the summer of 2023, Licking Heights Local School District had four Flock Safety Falcon® License Plate Recognition (LPR) cameras installed as part of a state safety grant for preventing violence at schools. The district was looking for a way to fill in the gaps of their existing security system, which already included standard video cameras inside and outside the school and a secure door alert system. Safety officials wanted to be able to know instantly when an at-risk person entered the perimeter of school property.
Within just the first few days of using the Falcon® LPR system, Superintendent Kevin Miller saw the value of the cameras and started looking for ways to expand their system to more buildings and locations on school grounds. The school now has 11 Falcon® cameras which they use to provide a layer of safety around their perimeter.
“This is one of the best uses of taxpayer money we could ever have. It doesn’t matter what size of school district you are–1,000 kids or 35,000 kids–the Flock system allows you to be proactive instead of reactive,” Miller said.
Flock Safety’s Falcon® LPR cameras have proven their worth, helping Licking Heights Local School District prevent problems and crimes on school grounds, enhancing their collaboration with area law enforcement agencies and allowing them to focus on maintaining a positive learning environment.
Instant Awareness Of Campus Visitors:
District safety staff create a series of custom lists of license plates that create alerts in the Flock LPR system, including banned students, sex offenders, and other people who have been flagged to not be allowed on campus. Almost immediately, those alerts provided valuable insights about the people who were accessing school grounds.
For example, Superintendent Miller said the system alerted school officials that a parent who is a sex offender, who has permission to pick up and drop off their student from school, got out of their car and went into a building during an after school activity. “We were able to reach out to that person, and have a conversation,” said Miller. When the parent asked who had told school officials he was in the building they let him know, “We have a system in place that tracks your license plate. He understands he cannot come into our buildings in the future.”
This type of information is what schools need to not just respond, but prevent incidents that could harm students or staff. It became clear to school officials that this system was something that could take the school’s situational awareness “to the next level,” said Miller. “We have to be extra cautious about people who come and go.”
Crucial Information For Staff At Access Points:
School building administrative assistants deal with constant movement, with a flow of people coming in and out of their facilities. They often have to navigate difficult situations, with disgruntled students or parents, or families that may have protection or no-contact orders or custodial arrangements that limit who can pick up or drop off a child, said Kevin Tooson, Principal of Licking Heights Middle School.
Before implementing Flock Safety Falcon cameras, the school district had plans and policies for handling incidents inside the building, Tooson said. “Now our staff can be armed with information much sooner to be able to make the appropriate decisions.” Alerts provide those staff members crucial minutes to call others in the school for help with a situation before it becomes a problem.
Research shows that students who don’t feel safe don’t have the capacity to learn, so anything that can provide more protection only enhances education, says the principal. “Having an environment that is welcoming and warm, where people feel valued and engaged, allows people to learn at their optimal capacity,” said Tooson. “That’s what safety does for a school.”
“Having an environment that is welcoming and warm, where people feel valued and engaged, allows people to learn at their optimal capacity. That’s what safety does for a school.”
Principal of Licking Heights Middle School | Ohio
Better Collaboration With Local Law Enforcement:
Sgt. Joshua McGeorge, Pataskala Police Department, had suggested that the school look into the Flock system as the city had its own network of cameras that were highly effective in preventing and solving crimes and schools tend to be a target for people looking to cause trouble. “We knew it could be beneficial for the whole community. We’ve always had a great relationship with the schools, but this provides them and us with much more information when something happens,” McGeorge said.
The school district has several ongoing construction projects, which draw citizens who are looking to steal supplies or vandalize the building site. A local resident was arrested for trespassing on the site and his license plate was added to a custom hot list on the school’s system. He came back a week later and the Falcon® alerts to the school allowed police to intercept him. The man was suffering from a mental health crisis and police were able to get him the help he needed before he did anything to harm himself or school property.
“It’s a fantastic investigative tool. I’ve been a police officer for 20 years now and this is one of the best crime-fighting tools I’ve seen come along,” says McGeorge.
Brian Evans, the Safety and Security Supervisor, says he’s grateful that McGeorge suggested that he look into the technology because it has saved his team many hours of work trying to investigate situations on campus. “Of the times I’ve had to look up an incident, 98% of the time we’re able to figure out who that person is or find at least some identifying factors from their vehicle,” Evans said.
On an everyday basis, and at times when there are large crowds of people for events, like games on campus, having the ability to get alerts for problem individuals helps them coordinate better with local police. All of this adds up to a safer community, he says.
“We knew it could be beneficial for the whole community. We’ve always had a great relationship with the schools, but this provides them and us with much more information when something happens. “It’s a fantastic investigative tool. I’ve been a police officer for 20 years now and this is one of the best crime-fighting tools I’ve seen come along.”
Sgt. Joshua McGeorge
Pataskala Police Department | Ohio
Overcoming Privacy Concerns:
Miller and Tooson say parents are overwhelmingly happy to have these systems in place to protect their children. License plates are public records and when a driver has a criminal background that indicates they should not be in contact with children or has been banned from campus access, it only makes sense to use that information for real-time alerts. “Parents' prized possession is their child. If we have something in place that is going to keep the child safe, then there's no no backlash in that style,” said Tooson.
Licking Heights Local School District says that Flock Safety technology will continue to be a key part of their long-term solutions for safer students and a safer campus. Most crimes at a school start in a parking lot, says Evans. “If we eliminate that in the parking lot, then before they even get to the building that’s just massive. It’s a massive front layer of protection.” Schools today have to make sure that students and their belongings are safe, inside and outside the school building. Every school could benefit from this type of protection, says Miller. “Our number one goal is students learning, and in order for that to happen they have to see a safe environment. That’s really paramount,” said the superintendent.