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Roanoke Catholic School installs devices to help detect contraband from vaping to bullying

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 3:13 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth will award Roanoke Catholic School a little more than $110,000 over the next three years. With this money, the school is implementing curriculum to help kids make the right decisions and has purchased technology that will help them monitor that students are doing so.

It’s a device that can seemingly do it all: detect carbon monoxide levels, gas leaks, chemicals from vape pens and cigarettes, and even send out an alert if it detects the sound of a gunshot.

“It’s incredible that in one device that you can actually have such technology,” says Roanoke Catholic Schools Dean of Students Christopher Michael.

The device is called a Halo and it looks similar to a smoke detector. The school has purchased 14 of them with grant money it received to put towards helping students make smart, healthy decisions. The sensor will send alerts to teachers and staff should it detect several different chemicals or sounds.

“It goes so far as to detect phrases,” explains Michael. “So, if we have a student who comes to us and says that they’re being bullied in the bathroom or they feel threatened, we can assign them a specific phrase to say and that detector will alert us to the fact that that child has said their secret phrase and we can get help to them as soon as possible.”

School officials insist that the device isn’t listening in on conversations, but say it is intelligent enough to identify certain phrases, sounds, and even signs of aggression.

They also say that it will take some calibration to their specific buildings for the device to not mistake something like a book being dropped as a gunshot.

“We are not aware of any other schools that have done this in the valley at least,” he continues. “We were told by the manufacturer that it’s more prevalent in hospital situations.”

Michael says he hopes that these devices can help students develop healthy habits.

“This is just one way that we feel like we’re educating the whole child by putting these into place so we can offer them some protection and also have a conversation so they can hopefully make better decisions.”

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