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Wauwatosa schools test scanning system for sexual predators

Feb. 12, 2013

The Wauwatosa School District is piloting a program that would screen school visitors and identify those who are registered sexual offenders.

The system, called Raptor, will be tested at Whitman Middle School, Superintendent Phil Ertl said.

"I think it's one of the fastest-growing security systems in the county right now," Ertl said.

The Raptor website claims that 8,000 schools have installed the system.

It works in real time. A security officer or school representative scans a government ID, such as a driver's license, and prints out a visitor's sticker with the subject's picture on it, he said.

"It'll take a while to get it all implemented," Ertl said. "We're not going to keep parents from coming into school."

The district will communicate with parents about how it will be used before it goes into effect, Ertl said.

The product description says the software scans for registered sex offenders in all 50 states, and can also screen for people with restraining orders or custody isssues, suspended or expelled students, gang members and others.

When an offender is identified, an alert is sent by email, text message or page to "designated officials," such as administrators and law enforcement officers.

The software "can also be used to track and report faculty and volunteer hours as well as student tardies and early sign-outs," the website says.

Ertl said the system won't be installed districtwide at this time.

"We're just going to try it and see if we want it for other schools," he said.

Finding balance

Dennis Mahony, who leads the district's emergency procedures committee provides a way to track those entering.

"If you extend this out, it could be that it's a grandparent that is bringing something for their child, but we sure want to be aware of the fact of who we've got in the building, and I think most people in the community would like to know that we know who's coming in and out of our buildings," he said.

"Lord knows, we want to have our buildings open to our parents and our public," he said. "But (we) also want to be discerning and intelligent at the same time so that we know who's in our building and who's not. This system, the hope is it wouldn't encumber that process, but that's why we pilot it, we don't just implement it. We want to see, we want to find out."

Looking at safety

At Monday's School Board meeting, the board considered several ways to encourage students and parents to get involved with making their schools safer.

Currently, the Wauwatosa School District uses the PBIS program, a web-based application designed to assist in schoolwide positive behavioral interventions and support.

"We are using PBIS with full force," Roosevelt Elementary School Principal Mark Supa said. "It's a program that helps students that need extra support. It's been very successful, and we've had seven students graduate from that program at Roosevelt Elementary so far this school year."

Other safety programs already in place include: student surveys, bullying administrator training, mentoring programs, school culture climate, crisis prevention training and the presence of school resource officers.

"There are a lot of different facets to school safety and security," School Resource Officer Joel Kutz said. "Physical building security, which is accomplished through taking site surveys - we also meet with students on a regular basis to discuss safety with them and work with school administrators to come up with new ways for school safety. The three facets to being a school resource officer are the counselor, the educator and the law enforcement officer."

There's still work to be done.

"We are about 80 percent to our ultimate goal of prevention, being prepared, recovery, and having a response plan for crises and threats placed upon the school district. Safety is a common activity and parents need to participate to ensure children are safe," board member Sharon Muehfeld said.

Correspondent Brittany Nikolai contributed to this report.

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