The world we live in today includes school safety threats on a regular basis. A new high-tech tool aims to help Missouri schools prepare for the worst and keep students safe.

The Missouri School Boards’ Association (MSBA) has rolled out the TI Training Recon System, which brings to life about 1,400 tense situations. From an angry student to a lunchroom fight, a knife-wielding jealous boyfriend, and an active shooter, the interactive video simulator is designed to help school workers think on their feet.

MSBA is offering to set up the system at schools around the state and let employees practice crisis management. It has already been in a number of schools to let workers practice their response tactics.

John McDonald is the chief operating officer of MSBA’s K-12 Safety Division, which includes the Center for Education Safety. He said the training can be very realistic. It can include sounds of gunshots, alarms going off, kids crying, teachers screaming and a smoke machine.

“Our teachers really are the first responders of their classroom,” said McDonald. “They’re the emergency managers of the hallway. Their decision-making skills moment in time when there’s a crisis is really what keeps our kids safe. So it’s incumbent upon us to give our educators the tools to respond effectively and quickly to any crisis.”

According to McDonald, Missouri is at the forefront of this type of training.

“This is really about managing uncertainty and we do that every day in schools,” he said. “Our teachers and our school administrators, they’re great at managing uncertainty. This just provides another tool for them to really have a skill set that’s unique to the world we’re living in. We want to make sure everybody in our sphere of education has the tools necessary. And it’s helpful because it builds muscle memory.”

Glen Moore, the organization’s education safety coordinator, said the system can help staff with de-escalation techniques.

“We know that with experience, your training responses improve. And the hard thing is it’s difficult to get that level of training quickly. A lot of it is kind of exposure, experience, and some of the training that law enforcement offers. But unfortunately with budgets, staffing shortages, it’s harder to get people to training. So, using a tool like this allows them to jump into that,” said Moore. “We up the level of cognitive load progressively as the applicant is prepared for it. We don’t push too much at them, but we build their threshold gradually. With this, we can do a lot of replication.”

Moore said additional scenarios can be developed specifically for bus drivers, office staff, new employees, and others.

The $28,000 system was funded by the state of Missouri.

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