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Schools ramp up security measures

Published: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST
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(Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Mike Harland, a dean assistant at St. Charles East High School, gives David George his driver's license back during George's visit to the school Friday.

Cheryl Brennan volunteers as a “copy mom” every other week at her son’s school, Geneva Middle School North, making copies for teachers for a few hours. 

Last week, for the first time, there was a new security process in place when Brennan arrived for her shift. School staff took Brennan’s driver’s license and ran it through a system that cross-referenced her name in a national database of sex offenders.

“They put it through a little scanning machine,” Brennan said. “They printed out a badge and put it in a lanyard with my photo on it and the reason I was at the school. ... To crosscheck [visitors] against the data bases for sex offenders is a really good idea.”

The office will keep the identification until the visitor leaves. And if potential visitors do not have a government-issued ID, they will not be allowed into the school, officials said.

The middle school is in a district pilot program for the Raptor V-Soft Visitor Management System, a new way to track those who are allowed to come in and to keep unwanted visitors out of school buildings, officials said.

Once they see how the system works, it likely will be established in other schools, officials said.

It is an additional measure in keeping the school secure, said Larry Bidlack, Geneva Middle School North principal.

“I think the feedback we got has been overwhelmingly positive,” Bidlack said. “It went very, very well in our first week here. Some were wondering, ‘Is it really necessary?’ Yes. The vast majority were like, ‘OK.’ ”

Geneva School District 304 and other districts use various technologies, security, hall monitors and front-desk gatekeeping to control who comes into their schools, and to know where they are.

According to its website, more than 10,000 schools and facilities nationwide use Raptor’s Web-based technology.

“It really helps us maintain some security and helps us know who is in our building.” Bidlack said. “If we ever had to evacuate, we will know who we have to account for.”

St. Charles District 303, Batavia School District 101 and Kaneland School District 302 use the same system. Their schools scan only the people who are coming into the building, District 303 spokesman Jim Blaney said.

“If somebody is coming in to drop off lunch or meet with the principal, they do not need to be scanned, [so] they are not in contact with students unsupervised,” Blaney said. “We instituted this program a few years [ago]. State law requires to be able to know any time a sex offender is in the building. A sex offender can be in the building as long as they are supervised.”

The scanning system does not retain visitor information. It scans only the offender database, Blaney said.

Julie-Ann Fuchs, the Kaneland District 302 assistant superintendent for business, said the visitor management software is among other measures that are part of the district’s security efforts.

“The district takes great measures to ensure that all students are kept safe throughout the school day,” Fuchs said in an email. “All of our doors are locked, so that visitors are only allowed to enter in one entrance for each of our schools. ... Some of our schools use video monitoring and security staff to also help with visitor management.”

In addition, all staff and students have been instructed to notify administration if they see suspicious-looking people in or around the school, Fuchs said.

At Geneva Middle School North, Brennan said she did not mind the additional time it took to scan her and print out a photo ID.

“The whole process took two to three minutes,” Brennan said. “I think it’s a good idea to protect students while visitors are in the school. It’s keeping them safe. I guess anything they do to keep the kids safe is a good measure.”

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