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School board OKs emergency app for Corona del Mar High students

Students at Corona del Mar High School could be using a smart phone app to communicate with school officials and police during emergencies as early as this school year.

The school board voted 5-1 on Sept. 23 to pilot the Titan HST app at no cost through January at CdM. Trustee Vicki Snell was absent.

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The Titan app allows students with an iPhone or Android smart phone to transmit alert communications to administrators and school personnel during an emergency with the touch of a button.

Students can specify the type of dangerous activity occurring, such as a stranger on campus, weapon or drug use, said Titan Health & Security Technologies founder Vic Merjanian.

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The program also allows administrators to broadcast information to students, teachers and parents enrolled in the system.

Two alerts in a five-minute period would immediately trigger a call to police, Merjanian said.

Security measures at Newport-Mesa Unified schools have been a frequent topic of discussion since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.

Trustee Katrina Foley voted against the project since the district's legal department had not signed off on the app.

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"Especially doing it at CdM it needs to be all buttoned up before we start something there," Foley said. "The last thing we need is another CdM controversy."

In response to Foley's concerns, Supt. Fred Navarro said that the district's legal department would review the program before the trial begins.

The district plans to pilot the app with 125 pre-selected students and 30 members of the administration, as well as a few parents to get feedback on the program's effectiveness, according to a staff report.

Merjanian, a Newport Beach attorney and CdM alumnus, created the app with the hope that it could first be used at his alma mater.

If the district chooses to use the program in future years, it will cost it $3.99 annually per student. Merjanian agreed to allow the district to test the app at no cost this school-year.

Foley voiced concerns about students "tattling" or making false accusations against their peers.

Trustee Martha Fluor disagreed, emphasizing that the students participating in the trial are responsible campus leaders.

"These are not children that are going to be pranking someone or making complaints," she said. "And again, it's a pilot project. It's a leap of faith, and we're going to have to test it out."

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The district has not yet implemented the program at CdM, said district spokeswoman Laura Boss.

"We are not ready to comment any further at this time until the review has been completed," Boss said.

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