New school security system in Wichita scans visitors’ driver’s licenses

07/22/2014 10:13 AM

07/22/2014 10:14 AM

If you plan to visit or volunteer at any Wichita public school, have your driver’s license ready.

The district plans to implement a new security system this year at all schools that scans visitors’ driver’s licenses and checks them against a nationwide database of sex offenders.

The Hall Pass visitor management system was tested at four southeast Wichita schools in May: Southeast High, Christa McAuliffe Academy, Curtis Middle School and Caldwell Elementary. Last month, district leaders voted to spend up to $200,000 to install scanners at all 91 school buildings and to train employees to use them.

Terri Moses, director of security for the Wichita district, said the new security measure wasn’t prompted by any specific incident or concern.

“I’ve told people many, many times: If we aren’t constantly looking at ways to improve the safety and security of our schools, then we’re not doing our job,” Moses said.

“This is just another tool in our tool belt that allows us to further check people who have access to children in our schools.”

Southeast High and the elementary and middle schools that feed into it will be the first to go online with the new system, Moses said. Others will be installed during the early part of the fall semester at a rate of about one week per high school feeder pattern, she said.

Scanners will be in the main office and will be operated by clerks at most schools. At high schools, however, where the main office isn’t always close to the main entry door, a scanning system will be set up at the primary entrance and will run by a staff member, Moses said.

Any visitor entering a Wichita school during bell hours – 7:50 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. at most middle and high schools and 8:50 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. at most elementary schools – will be required to sign in using the system. This includes parents or other visitors who volunteer in classrooms, eat lunch with students or drive for a field trip or vendors who have access to a building’s hallways.

A school employee will swipe the visitor’s driver’s license or government-issued ID card into the system, which will match the name and birth date against national sex offender databases. Should a nonauthorized visitor attempt to enter the school, school leaders and district safety personnel will be alerted.

The system also will issue a date-specific adhesive visitor ID badge to wear in school, “which we feel is one of the most valuable portions of this process,” Moses said.

“That way there’s consistency throughout the district,” she said. “Right now, one elementary school might have one kind of visitor’s badge, another elementary school might have a different one. This way, anybody who’s walking in the building, you’ll see that person has been checked, that person is a visitor that’s been run through the system.”

Visitors without a driver’s license or other ID will have their information entered manually into the system, officials said.

Visitors will be required to check in each time they visit. Frequent visitors may request a key-fob ID to make check-in scanning easier.

Adults just stopping by the office – picking up children who are sick or who have an appointment – will not have to be scanned, officials said. Neither will district employees with an official USD 259 ID badge.

Moses said the system worked smoothly at test schools, except “when large numbers of people” tried to enter a school at the same time.

“If everybody shows up at noon for a noon lunch, that could be problematic,” she said. “We are working on our procedures in terms of notifying” groups invited to large events to inform them of the process and urge them to arrive early.

Information from the license-scan system will not be sold or otherwise made available to any third party, Moses said.

People on the sex offender registry who have children in Wichita schools “can be a part of their child’s educational process,” Moses said. “But they need to let us know they’re going to be there.”

School officials will escort those parents into and through the school building and limit their participation in certain special events or volunteer work, she said.

“The process doesn’t change a whole lot for people who have been on the list,” Moses said. “This just helps us identify people who belong on that list.”

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