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Evolv & Schools: What You Need to Know

Blog Post
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Peter George Headshot
Peter George
Chief Executive Officer
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Publish date

Feb 2, 2023

Unless and until the epidemic of gun violence in schools begins to subside, schools will continue to look at better ways to keep their community safe so the focus can remain on education and the social and emotional wellness of students, faculty, and staff. As a result of the rise in violence, educators and school administrators are now being required to “get schooled” on the very important business of keeping people safe, a highly advanced skillset of subject matter experts from the Department of Defense, TSA, FBI, and Secret Service, in addition to security professionals keeping major venues safe across the nation.  

Knowing that to mitigate risk, every second counts, as does the technology, people, and processes in a layered security approach, one solution school districts are considering is weapons screening. This is a new approach to security for schools. It is not the only answer by any means, but rather, one innovation allowing schools to increase their security posture without creating a prison-like experience. New technology, including weapons detection, access control, video management systems, and social media monitoring, are important tools, but are not foolproof. Technology is an effective part of a safety plan for schools; but that plan must include better social and emotional support for students at risk, a connected and engaged school community and education, and action around safe and responsible gun ownership.   

While traditional metal detectors have been around for more than a century, advanced weapons detection systems, such as Evolv Express®, are a completely new experience for most schools deploying them. As a result, they require administration, educators, parents, students, and school security personnel to develop and learn new protocols and become familiar with new technology.  

Naturally, innovative technologies are often misunderstood. That’s why we wanted to address some topics about how Evolv Express, the system that is helping to make the world’s leading sports stadiums, concert venues and theme parks safer, works for schools. With hundreds of schools around the country having incorporated Evolv Express into their safety plan, here are some important things to understand about the technology, how it works, and our corporate commitment to customers’ safety.  

What we share with the public and what we don’t  

Let’s start with the concept of transparency in marketing weapons detection technology.  It is well understood in the security industry that sharing details of a security system or operation puts people at risk.   

It is important to understand that Evolv Express systems are designed to detect various types of weapons, and components of weapons, that could cause mass harm, not items that are readily available within schools. There is no perfect solution that will stop 100% of threats, including ours, which is why security must include a layered approach that involves people, process, and technology.  

The best technology is transparent as to what it does without disclosing a “blueprint” to a bad actor that could use it to do harm. Those in charge of keeping buildings safe must assume that bad actors are always looking for ways to circumvent the security processes in place. It is devastating that this concept even applies to schools, but it must.  

This is a best practice well known in the security industry, notably the TSA. The TSA carefully guards Sensitive Security Information (SSI) to keep the public safe. SSI is information that, if publicly released, would be detrimental to transportation security, as defined by Federal Regulation 49 C.F.R. Part 1520. 

As John Pistole, former director of the FBI and TSA has explained, “we saw this in the real world on Christmas day 2009, when Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula sent Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from Brussels to Detroit with a non-metallic IED hidden in his underwear. They knew in advance that there was no detection for non-metallic bombs in most airport security protocols and regimens in use at the time. We know that they discovered this vulnerability through extensive online research. We also know that they conducted multiple scouting missions to probe and test for vulnerabilities at specific facilities using specific screening methods.” 

Marketing weapons detection security requires a delicate balance between educating stakeholders on new technology and not providing bad actors with the information they could use to do harm. So, while public-facing marketing materials are intentionally not specific, we communicate all aspects of the Evolv Express system – including limitations and capabilities – with the trusted security professionals at our customers, partners, and prospects. We believe there should be nothing schools deciding to deploy Evolv Express don’t know about the technology before making the decision to include our systems as part of their security approach. That’s why our team works tirelessly to make sure they have all information necessary to determine if Express is the right weapons screening system for them.  

This is not “deceptive marketing” or “security through obscurity” as those not in the weapons detection industry might declare, but rather, a critical and proven best practice of security professionals who have the profound responsibility of keeping the public safe from harm.    

Why schools are investing in AI-based weapons detection  

Customers making the decision to deploy Evolv Express do not do so lightly. They test our systems, conduct extensive research, speak directly with customers, assess the capabilities and limitations, and vet against other options before selecting the best solution for their district.   

Here is what we know: When it comes to security, schools are asking for ways to help make their buildings safer, reduce anxiety around gun violence, and speed up response time to threats.   

Evolv Express is the only artificial intelligence-based weapons detection system that pinpoints exactly where a threat is on the person while distinguishing most everyday items from weapons. The system looks at threats and where they are, not at people. This speeds up response time to an incident and reduces bias and the need for body searches which often leads to the friction and anxiety caused by traditional metal detectors and their newer alternatives. Unlike Evolv, those other technologies simply alert when a potential threat/object goes through the system, leaving the security guard to conduct an assessment (sometimes full-body) to find the location of the potential threat and “yoyo” the person through the system several times. ("Yoyo" refers to a common security term for having an alerted person run through security screening several times until they no longer alarm.)   

We continue to hear from our customers about the positive impact adding Express to their safety plan has had on their school.  And we work with schools to overcome obstacles new technology might present, such as identifying ways to account for certain Chromebooks which may alert due to specific components of their design resembling a part of a weapon.   

“Evolv is the best that is out there for schools,” noted Mark Laurrie, Niagara Falls City School District Superintendent. “With these systems in place, we’re confident that we’re fostering the highest quality learning environment and safety of our students and employees while investing in technology that continues to get better.”  

And Atlanta Public Schools police Chief Ronald Applin has said the Evolv system is more efficient and less invasive than previous screening that has been in place at least since 2016 when he joined the district. 

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), one of the largest districts in the country, has increased its deployment of the Evolv Express systems to nearly 70 schools after experiencing a year of success with its initial rollout. CMS  Chief Operations Officer Brian Schultz explained how adding Express to its security approach has enabled a safer environment that lets teachers and students focus on education and build relationships that support better academic outcomes.  

Again, there is no perfect solution that will create a completely sterile environment and catch all weapons for schools or any venue.  This is why a layered approach of people, process, and technology is used in security planning and execution – and schools are no different. Our systems are stopping guns regularly from entering buildings where they should not be. And AI-weapons detection working in concert with schools to create safer environments is more than just deterrence and detection. It’s about setting a positive tone for a school community at the beginning of each day. It’s about stopping the weapons from coming in, but also bringing peace of mind so that students, teachers, staff, parents, and caregivers know they are safer. It’s about school communities connecting with each other, checking on each other, and working together to stop violence.    

A final thought 

Our mission at Evolv is to help make the world a safer place. That mission is central to why I joined the company; I have a daughter who is a second-grade teacher in the Boston public school system. When she told me that on the third day of every school year, she teaches her 8-year-old students to hide under a desk from an active shooter, it demonstrated the significant emotional toll our children must endure in what should be a safe place for learning. I worry every day as a father, businessman, and human being about this tragic reality. When I hear of something bad happening at a school, I pray that my daughter and her kids are safe.  

Working hand-and-hand with this team each and every day, I know that all Evolv employees hold the responsibility of school safety as our highest priority. We are deeply committed to our mission and grateful to partner with schools to help keep our children and teachers safe.   

Peter George Headshot
Peter George
Chief Executive Officer

Peter G. George is a 30+ year leader in the security, software and networking industries.  As President and Chief Executive Officer of Evolv, he is a member of the Evolv Technology Executive Leadership Team. Prior to joining Evolv, Peter served as President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Fidelis Cybersecurity for over a decade, helping to structure and lead parts of the Global Executive Team, and increasing customer acquisition and retention. Prior to Fidelis Cybersecurity, he served as President and CEO of Crossbeam Systems, repositioning the company for market success through technology innovations and strategic partnerships in the security space. His experiences took him abroad as well, working for companies such as Nortel Networks, Bay Networks, and Wellfleet Communications in France. Peter serves on the Board of Directors of Corero Network Security PLC (LON: CNS). He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the College of the Holy Cross.

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