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Video: Is this the safest school in America with these tech features?

Southwestern High School, in Indiana. (Indiana Department of Education photo/Released)
May 27, 2022

In the wake of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, a 2018 video resurfaced this week showcasing an advanced security system at an Indiana High School dubbed “Safest School in America,” that’s designed to make it harder for armed gunmen to attack.

In 2018, NBC News highlighted Southwestern High School in Indiana, which had implemented a $400,000 security system that includes bullet-resistant classroom doors, and live-streamed security cameras that can provide local emergency responders with a by-the-minute look inside a shooting.

The system includes more advanced features, like a push-button fob that can be worn around each teacher’s neck, which they can use to trigger the security alarms for the entire school if they see a potential security risk. Each classroom is also paired with a box affixed with a switch that allows the classroom to indicate whether they are in immediate danger, or whether they are safe and secure.

The security system also makes use of a comprehensive array of security cameras that allow both school staff and emergency services to monitor a security situation in real-time. Southwestern High School’s security system is accessible to their local sheriff’s office, located about 10 miles away.

In addition to tracking where a potential gunman might be inside a school, those monitoring the security cameras can also trigger a blinding and disorienting smokescreen, called a “hot zone,” around a suspect.

The security system, known as the Integrated School Defense System (ISDS), was developed by NETTALON, a Fredericksburg, Virginia-based company. In a 2018 interview with CNBC, NETTALON President Don Jones said

“The way the world is today schools are not connected to 9-1-1 and so law enforcement is responding blind they don’t have any actual intelligence they often don’t the get the alert til shots have been fired maybe for two minutes,” said Jones, who is a veteran U.S. Army Ranger who served in Vietnam. “So this is a paradigm change where you get the alert out in a couple seconds the children all have protection, their classrooms are protected spaces law, enforcement can locate the attacker within a minute, as in today that’s impossible. And they have the ability to launch countermeasures while officers are in route so they can neutralize the attacker before you have boots on the ground in building entry teams.”

The ability to track a potential shooter’s movements in real-time could prove crucial in a law enforcement response. As reports continue to develop from the shooting in Uvalde, law enforcement officials have indicated it took between 40 minutes and an hour between when the attack began and when responding officers were able to determine where the shooter had barricaded himself inside a classroom and gain entry to stop him.

On the low-tech side of Southwestern High School’s security measures is a red line in each room that tells students, teachers and staff where they have to stay behind in order to avoid being seen by a suspect looking through the window of the classroom’s door.

Jones said his firm had only sold the one system to Southwestern High School, which has since been called the “Safest School in America.”

While Jones said his firm had only sold that single system, at a cost of $400,000, the system’s features inspired Indiana to establish its Secured School Safety Grant program. Since its adoption in 2013, the grant program has awarded more than $110 million in matching grants to Indiana school districts for school safety features, according to Indiana’s state Department of Homeland Security.

At the time of this publication, NETTALON had not responded to an American Military News request for comment about its security systems.

The ISDS caught the attention of a Facebook group for the city of Lewisville, Texas in the immediate aftermath of the school shooting in Uvalde. Winston Edmondson, a candidate for mayor in Lewisville, shared the 2018 NBC report on the ISDS, writing, “This school has a pretty sophisticated security system. The cost was $400,000. Sounds kind of expensive, until you remember that several North Texas schools dropped anywhere from $40 million to $70 million for new football stadiums.”

Another person responded to Edmondson’s post, writing “This is the best option I have seen. The price isn’t outrageous for what it is. I’d much rather see my tax $$ going towards this.”