Wauwatosa West High School administrators can see a list of who's visiting the school at the push of a button.
Visitors' IDs now are being scanned before they are allowed into the school. Their identification is checked against a database of sexual predators, and they issued a visitor badge. The software — Raptor vSoft — is in its pilot program at West, but District School Safety Coordinator Dale Weiss hopes to apply it to all Tosa public schools by spring, 2014.
The system cost $20,000 for the hardware and will cost the district $7,000 annually.
While the program checks against sexual predator databases only, officials can add custom notes to the files of each visitor, such as if they are denied child custody or are a regular volunteer.
The system uses a visitor's name, date of birth and photo to check against the predator lists. The driver's license number or any other information on the ID is not kept, Weiss said. He added one major purpose for the ID scanning is to compare photographs to ensure the faces match names.
There already has been a predator hit in the system. A woman named Michelle checked in to visit the school. She had the same last name and date of birth as a registered sex offender named Michael. The two pictures didn't match and Michelle was given her visitor badge.
If someone is found to be on the sexual predator list, the school resource officer, principal and other administrators are summoned to the front office to make a judgment call about letting the person in, escorting them on their visit or kicking them out of the school.
If a visitor doesn't have an ID card on them, they can be manually entered into the system, but Weiss said they'd have to bring an ID in at some point if they were a regular visitor.
Betty Marks, the receptionist at West, said scanning the cards is another layer in her job. "Ninety-nine point nine percent of these people (visitors) either I know or they know me by name and I recognize them." And putting people into the system doesn't take much time.
Layers of security
The system may be able to identify registered sexual predators, but Superintendent Phil Ertl said the program isn't intended to stop active shooters. He added, "If it does that, it's a good thing, but that really isn't the reason for the system."
The real purpose of the system, Weiss said, is to track and monitor school visitors. In addition to allowing the school to know if a visitor is a registered sexual predator, there are other benefits as well, Weiss said.
"If this school happened to be evacuated for any reason, these teachers do a great job of knowing what students are in there, but do we know what exactly other visitors we have there at the time?"
The new system is a driver in a series of security overhauls Weiss is planning. Since visitors will have to get their badges before going anywhere else in the building, office placement, door locks and new security cameras will be recommended for approval by the school safety commission.
While West was the ideal school for the new system, with its reception office adjacent to the main entrance, other schools are not so well suited. Wauwatosa East High School, for example, may have its office moved closer or have a clerk sit next to the entrance.
Weiss also is aiming to retool the school-issued ID cards. He is looking at having permanent, laminated badges for all regular volunteers and staff members.
For after-school hours the old check-in system would be used.
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