NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – On Tuesday, the Metro Nashville Public School Board approved moving forward with a more than $1 million contract that would add gun detection software to schools across the district.

The contract is with the company Omnilert and would start March 23, lasting through Nov. 30, 2025. According to the proposal, the contract is not to exceed, $1,050,487.80, split between two years.

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“Over the last few years, unfortunately, the number one issue amongst our customers, has been the threat of active shooters,” said Dave Fraser, CEO of Omnilert.

The company gave News 2 a glimpse into how the program works.

“It specifically tries to recognize a person with a gun in their hand, and that could be a handgun or that could be a rifle,” Fraser explained. “When there is video image with a gun, as long as a human being can see it, it picks up in a fraction of a second.”

In the video the company sent News 2, you can see the moment a person walks into the frame holding a gun, immediately, the system detects the firearm. Fraser also explained, unlike metal detectors, the system can cover a large space like a parking lot or cafeteria.

After the Uvalde elementary shooting, MNPS was forced to answer tough questions about how to keep students safe. In the weeks following, Dr. Adriene Battle and Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake held a combined press conference to talk about how both departments planned on working together to increase safety protocols. The conversation quickly focused on the addition of School Resource Officers, including in elementary schools, and the possibility of adding metal detectors to schools.

“I have been asked more recently, probably because of the recent experiences if we’re going to require clear backpacks which is a why or why not and they would like to know about ongoing concerns about for metal detectors,” said board member Rachael Anne Elrod in June 2022.

Fraser explained, this new system is not 100% guaranteed, going on to say there are some false positives that may occur. However, the program puts the power in the school’s hands.

The contract will include the annual camera and hardware subscriptions, along with the initial setup and ongoing monitoring.

The software, Omnilert, detects handguns and rifles, by using AI gun detection. (Courtesy: Omnilert)

“The detection takes a fraction of a second, but immediately after that, the information around the detection is sent to respondents,” said Fraser. “Whether they want to issue a lockdown, set off alarms, what have you, but we turn that into a single click.”

Before the board voted Tuesday night, advocates with Metropolitan Nashville Education Association (MNEA), spoke against the contract.

“In practice, given the limitations of the software, the chance that it would be visible, in a place where the software can pick it up, and not seen by another person, that seems unlikely to happen, and if that were to happen, it would really be more of a reflection of our schools being understaffed,” explained Hallie Trauger.

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Trauger, who is a member of MNEA and a teacher at Antioch High School, agreed that safety should be a priority within the school district; however, she believes one of the biggest ways to curb it is to invest in more staffing.

Members of the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association (MNEA) spoke before the Metro School Board against the use of AI gun detection. (Photo: WKRN)

“Ensuring that we are fully staffed, so that there are people monitoring our hallway so that there are people at doors and able to greet people properly, able to look, able to have those conversations, able to respond and intervene appropriately when that’s necessary,” Trauger said.

Several MNEA members sat in the crowd, holding “understaffing is a safety issue” signs. Nancy Holland, a former MNPS teacher turned substitute, also spoke before the board. Holland stated, “none of this money is going towards significant safety issues,” referring to the Omnilert contract.

Instead, she referenced the need for increased pay for those already working in the school system, despite the pay increase that was given last year.

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According to a statement from MNPS Spokesperson, the contract has been under consideration for months:

Over the last few months the district has been working with our security camera provider (System Integrations, Inc.) to see about products that would enable a brandished weapon detection feature for 1,300+ security cameras installed throughout the district.

We are proposing to contract on the upcoming Board agenda with this company to provide an Omnilert gun detection add-on feature to our existing security camera system that will accomplish this goal. Services provided through the contract will include the onboarding and setup, AI detection software, hardware for servers, and a monitoring service for human review of alerts flagged through the AI software.

Sean Braisted, MNPS