Gwinnett County Schools to purchase new safety equip

The Gwinnett County school board recently approved a $7 million purchase of an alert system that’s become the go-to option in Georgia schools.

Centegix CrisisAlert provides school staff members with a wearable button that can be used to call for help in situations ranging from behavioral problems, fights and medical emergencies to outside threats that require swift public safety intervention.

Gwinnett, Georgia’s largest school district, joins the 60% of schools in the state that use Centegix, an Atlanta-based company. The system is in at least seven metro Atlanta districts. Superintendent Calvin Watts said Centegix will “empower all staff to have a role in school safety.”

Gwinnett piloted the system at Parkview and South Gwinnett high schools in 2022, and staff used the button 403 times. Behavioral issues accounted for 45% of usage, while suspicious behavior and physical altercations each accounted for about 20% of the use. Less than 1% of the usage reported campus threats.

The system has had some errant uses in other area school districts.

In Cobb County, parents have reported more than a dozen instances since August of alerts being issued at schools where no threat was present. In October, district officials reported “human error” causing a lockdown at 11 schools. Centegix now encourages districts to retrain staff with the badges roughly every six months, company officials told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a recent report about the system.

Gwinnett didn’t report data about possible accidental triggers. Inadvertent presses of the badges accounted for roughly 10% of the alerts in Cherokee, Fayette and Henry counties.

In Gwinnett, teachers reported the button system enabled them to get help to their classroom quickly when needed, and staff feedback within the pilot schools heavily favored implementation.

Jorge Gomez, special assistant to the superintendent, said the cost of implementing Centegix will be covered by state school safety grants. State legislators introduced a bill — Alyssa’s Law — that would have made crisis alert systems mandatory in schools, but the bill ultimately did not pass. The bill originated in Florida, where one-third of districts use Centegix.

The district did not immediately provide a timeline for installation of the new system.

The school board also approved the $1.6 million purchase of security cameras and $1.2 million for door hardware. There wasn’t much discussion of those purchases at board meetings. District spokeswoman Melissa Laramie said the new cameras will retrofit all current cameras in place.

The district has made several safety improvements over the past school year. Classrooms were equipped with push button locks, and schools have been getting safety vestibules that add a second set of doors at the main entrance. The district plans for all schools to have the vestibules by the end of the year.

About the Author

Josh Reyes

Josh Reyes covers Gwinnett County Public Schools for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A native of Virginia, he wrote about local government and public safety at the Daily Press and The Virginian-Pilot. He graduated from Christopher Newport University with a B.A. in English.