Putnam City Schools Step Up Security With Facial Recognition Software
WARR ACRES, Oklahoma - Putnam City schools are stepping up security with new facial recognition software. The new system was deployed across all high schools and middle schools in the district this year.
Outside and inside each school, more than 1,000 eyes in the sky are watching and waiting.
“It is a very active system,” said Campus Police Chief Mark Stout. “It is picking up faces constantly throughout the day, analyzing those faces, and then if those faces are in what we call the ‘watch list,’ it will set off an alert.”
Stout said their new system takes 16 different measurements of a face, in a microsecond. It is looking for people the district has identified as potential threats.
The chief explained, “None of them are currently students, but they have been in the past, so we are just actively watching at the principals’ request.”
Putnam City North HS principal Carole Buhr said it is also for kids in crisis, though.
“We’re preventing harm from coming in,” Buhr said, “but in some cases, we’ve had situations where students who are runaways come here because it’s a safe space, and we know when they get here.”
During the trial period last year, the system picked up on three runaways who showed up for class. Various administrators like Buhr were also put to the test.
She told me, “I change my hair every day. It changes colors frequently, and it picks me up every time.”
Although there are two officers in each high school and one in each middle school, the technology has capabilities that go far beyond the human eye.
Stout said, “If there’s a backpack or something that’s left there for an extended period of time, then it will give us an alert also, saying that doesn’t belong in that picture position.”
The district paid for the system with bond money and it was not cheap, but Buhr said the investment is well worth it.
“The peace of mind that it gives me as a building principal,” she said, “to say that these are some parameters that I need, that’s what this is about.”