Artificial intelligence could be used to detect weapons in Fort Smith schools. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

FORT SMITH — The school district is considering a $156,000 annual contract with weapons detection system company ZeroEyes.

The school board heard an update on the contract during its meeting Monday.

Martin Mahan, the district’s deputy superintendent, said the system uses artificial intelligence to send the district’s existing cameras to detect weapons and have the footage reviewed by experts. He said that if there is any threat, the affected school will immediately start the lockdown process.

According to its website, ZeroEyes was founded in 2018 by a team of Navy SEALs and elite technologists after the February 14, 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to help people avoid similar situations. can be saved The system provides military-grade intelligence surveillance of facilities such as schools, commercial buildings and defense sites, sending human-verified alerts within three to five seconds of a weapon being detected.

Senior Vice President of Sales JT Wilkins told the school board that ZeroEyes is already being implemented in 40 states, including Arkansas.

“In 2023 alone, our software resulted in 10 arrests for weapons that were being used in a threatening manner,” he said.

According to the ZeroEyes website, the system does not detect weapons or weapons concealed in a holster.

Mahan said the plan is to enable Zero Eyes in schools in August. He said he wants to keep the full scope of the system private to protect the district.

“This type of system is going to be a number of cameras that will also be equipped with a software package that will be part of the service,” he said. “This equipment will have a five-year warranty. The price will remain the same for the six-year period. If we choose to continue to rework every year, the price will remain the same.”

Charles Warren, the district’s chief financial officer, said administrators are looking at available grants to cover the cost. If they are not available, the cost will come out of the district’s operating funds, he said.

District Superintendent Terry Morawski said the contract is a commitment the board will discuss annually on whether it wants to continue working with ZeroEyes.

“Once again, I appreciate the presentation, and the plan that we put in place and the process going forward,” said Board President Dalton Person. “This is of the utmost importance, I think, to all of us on the school board, and I have full confidence in the committee and the district to be on board with zero eyes, for the time frame and the cost provided. Moving forward.”

The agreement follows the district’s response to two gun-related incidents since the start of the school year.

The first incident occurred on August 16, when a Northside High School student was arrested for having a firearm on campus.

According to a district news release, the gun was discovered when school administrators and the district’s police department responded to a student’s report of vaping and searched his backpack. School police immediately seized the gun and arrested the student, and no students or staff were injured during the incident, the statement said. The student was charged with a felony, and the case has been forwarded to the city prosecutor’s office.

The second incident occurred on Aug. 22 when a student at Ramsey Middle School allegedly brought a knife to school and threatened a staff member outside a classroom.

A news release from the school said Ramsey administrators and an on-site district police officer quickly disarmed the student and no one was hurt. The student was arrested.

Morosky said at the Aug. 28 school board meeting that several measures are being taken or are being considered regarding school safety. He said dean positions were added this year at Northside and Southside high schools to help with student discipline, allowing assistant principals to focus on campus safety and improving the school environment. has gone

Morawski said the district is looking to hire four more school resource officers to support Fort Smith’s 19 elementary schools, as well as Belle Pointe Center and Peck Innovation Center.

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