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Hall County schools looking at new visitor identification system

POSTED: May 23, 2013 12:04 a.m.

Visitors to Hall County schools could have a new security checkpoint to go through beginning next school year.

The system would scan a person’s driver’s license prior to allowing entrance.

“It’s actually a visitor management system,” said Sgt. Earl Roach, Hall County school system safety coordinator. “It will scan driver’s licenses and let us know if a sex offender is in the school.”

Roach recommended Raptor, a national company, to provide the service, which would replace the current system in Hall elementary and middle schools.

“The majority of the schools are using Ident-A-Kid,” said Gary Stewart, executive director of administrative services, school safety and security.

Roach explained that the new Raptor system, which would replace Ident-A-Kid, will function similarly with the addition of checking government-issued identification, and will be used in all schools, including the high schools.

Aaron Turpin, executive director for technology, also explained that the use of the driver’s license provides more security.

“Before, the visitor could come to the school and self-identify, and so they could say whoever they wanted to,” Turpin said. “It was just not as secure as the safety committee would have liked it to be. This program requires school personnel to do an identification as well as review the offender list.”

If detrimental information does come up, the school official checking the information would be provided with a picture of the registered offender to see if the information matches up. This would cut down on confusion over people with similar names.

The person would select “yes” or “no,” if it is the offender or not.

If there is still uncertainty, Roach said that the charge would be verified through the court system before any action may be taken.

“We’ll verify what the offense is first,” he said. “We just want to know who’s in our building, and if they are a sexual offender. We’re not trying to penalize anybody.”

The Raptor system does have the capacity to conduct more in-depth background checks on visitors, which is what caused Superintendent Will Schofield to ask the board not to move forward on voting for this particular system at the Monday meeting.

“That’s a lot more information than we need, I think,” he said. “People are rightfully concerned about government interference in their lives, and I just need to find out a lot more about it.”

Schofield said that the issue would likely be taken up again at a June meeting of the school board.

Jim Vesterman, Raptor CEO, said that any government-issued ID could be used to check visitors in.

“We don’t seize any information beyond first name, last name, date of birth and the picture,” he said. “A copy is not stored of the ID, and none of that is available to anybody except the school.

“And the information sits on a secure server,” he added.

Vesterman said that more than 8,000 schools across the United States use the system, including nearly 1,000 in Florida. He did not know the exact number of schools in Georgia using the system.

“I know, up and down the East Coast, we have thousands,” he said. “We’re in almost every state of the country.”

He did say that, in addition to detecting registered sex offenders, schools can customize their programs to include other background checks. For example, a school could input information on any particular custody disputes involving a specific child.

School security has always been an issue, but has become even more so in light of recent national events.

Nath Morris, Hall Board of Education chairman, said that the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School spurred the board to review security and safety procedures in Hall schools.

“It wasn’t long after the terrible tragedy in Connecticut that we reviewed our whole emergency preparedness plans,” he said.

Morris said that, if approved, the cost of the system would be covered under special purpose local option sales tax funds, of which approximately $87,000 was approved for this security measure. According to the Raptor website at raptorware.com, the basic system begins at $1,600 per campus, which totals to $52,800 – one system for each of the 33 schools in the Hall County school system.

There would then be a $480 annual renewal charge per school, or $15,840 for the entire school system. An all-in-one desktop package with the Ident-A-Kid program costs $1,199 per system, with additional costs for accessories and the software license.

“It’s not that expensive for 33 schools,” Roach said about the Raptor system.


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