VIDEO: Local Students ‘Feel Safer’ After AI Upgrade

Mansfield ISD
Mansfield ISD Logo | Image by Mansfield ISD/Facebook

High schoolers in Mansfield ISD have weighed in on the new high-tech security system implemented Friday to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

After much deliberation, district officials recently opted to install 20 Evolv Express units, placing one at each entrance of its high school campuses. The measure will cost Mansfield ISD $40,000 per year per unit.

Britney Fortner, the district’s director of safety and security, told Fox 4 KDFW that the devices utilizing cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) technology to detect weapons are worth the expense.

“With metal detectors, it takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of manpower to search through everything that’s metal on a person,” Fortner said. “Whereas here, looking for those specific concerns, [an Evolv unit] identifies the location where we need to search, so any student can just keep walking on through if they don’t have anything of concern.”

Speaking with WFAA, Fortner explained that the new system was rolled out at the district’s high schools because they have the largest student body and are “more transient.”

“We have not discussed the further expansion, but it’s definitely on the table,” Fortner said.

The move comes as security protocols on school campuses have become an issue nationwide. In Texas, legislators passed a law requiring every public school to have an armed peace officer on campus in an effort to better secure schools following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde last year, as previously reported in The Dallas Express.

Some districts, such as Dallas ISD, have struggled to comply with the measure, often citing budgetary concerns and hiring pool limitations.

At Mansfield ISD high schools, all visitors, staff, and students must pass through the Evolv system barriers after removing any electronics.

“You just hand in your Chromebook … you walk through,” Makaria Walker, a junior at Mansfield High, told WFAA.

If an individual is flagged by the Evolv unit, they are ushered over to a trained staff member who will conduct a bag search.

“I know I don’t have anything in my backpack. You can look through it. I don’t care,” Walker said. “So, If I get flagged, I get flagged. If I don’t, then I can go on to class.”

Students said that the new units provide some peace of mind.

“As a student, I feel that it makes us a lot safer here,” explained Ben Teage, a sophomore at Mansfield High, according to WFAA. “I don’t like to worry about safety, but this obviously doesn’t have to make me worry about safety when we have these machines to help protect us from weapons and stuff like that.”

Although Fortner admitted that the Evolv system is not perfect when it comes to weapons detection, she views it as an integral part of a broader school safety scheme. It works hand-in-hand with other protocols, such as maintaining an atmosphere in which students are encouraged to be vigilant and to report suspicious behavior.

A shooting occurred at Mansfield ISD’s Timberview High in 2021, leaving three people — two students and a teacher — injured. The gunman, Timothy George Simpkins, a student at the time, was sentenced to 12 years in prison on charges of attempted capital murder this summer, as covered in The Dallas Express.

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