Using the right technology to ensure a safe environment for learning.
GUEST COLUMN | by Jim Vesterman
Schools across the country are in a constant struggle to employ the latest technologies to facilitate teaching and learning. But sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that both students and staff can only achieve this 21st century learning in an environment in which they are safe and secure.
A recent statistic revealed that less than 20 percent of our nation’s schools use an electronic visitor management system to screen who is entering school and district buildings. Instead, most schools rely on pencil and paper sign-in sheets. This approach leads to an assortment of security issues, including the inability to verify a visitor’s identity, the lack of means to access information remotely in an emergency, and a reduced capacity to quickly track important data, such as custody issues.
These checks simply can’t be done manually in any reasonable amount of time.
Many schools have taken the step of limiting access to the school through a single entry point. However, these schools are still handicapped by traditional sign-in sheets. Traditional methods impose realistic limitations on the screening capabilities at the front desk as well as the inability to discretely request assistance should a visitor raise any red flags.
- There are more than 750,000 registered sex offenders in the United States. Without a visitor management system designed to do so, schools are unable to consistently flag offenders when they attempt to enter schools.
- Custody issues present schools with ongoing security concerns and information management burdens that show no sign of abating. The FBI reports that the number of custody-motivated abductions increased by more than five times between October 2010 and June 2013.
- Custody issues can have huge financial implications for schools, such as the $2.8 million judgment holding a school district in California responsible for releasing a student to a non-custodial adult who kidnapped the student.
A visitor management system can help protect schools against these threats in a number of ways. A well-designed system automatically captures visitor information by scanning a photo ID and reading only the relevant data. With connections to the proper databases, the visitor data can be checked to see if the visitor is a sex offender or if that visitor has been flagged with any other custom alert set by the district – all in seconds. These checks simply can’t be done manually in any reasonable amount of time.
Today’s schools are too large for staff working the front desk to know and remember everyone’s background. And just because the individual is a frequent visitor to the building (or a vendor or a volunteer), doesn’t mean that they should truly be allowed access to the school. Simply letting the community know that a visitor management system is in place helps to deter unauthorized access to school campuses. It is much easier to move on to a school that is unprotected.
Visitor management systems also allow the district to implement a process whereby every visitor wears a badge that clearly displays his or her name, photo, the date and time, and the authorized destination. This helps teachers and school officials to easily identify whether someone has been granted access to the building.
At the district level, visitor management systems provide two key advantages. First, they provide a uniform process for screening visitors. This streamlines the procedure, reduces confusion and inconsistencies, and enhances overall safety. Second, district officials can access individual building information remotely to review who is in any given building at any time. This is particularly helpful in the case of an emergencies and evacuations. Officials can account for all parties should the need arise.
Now is a good time to review how your school currently screens visitors and consider if there might be ways to improve safety. Implementing software that screens every visitor, every time, improves school security and streamlines entry procedures, bringing buildings into the 21st century and keeping students, faculty, and staff safe.
Jim Vesterman is the CEO of Raptor Technologies, the nation’s leading provider of visitor management technologies for K-12 schools. Learn more about the benefits of visitor management systems in this new whitepaper.