Beefed-up security will target sex offenders and strangers starting Tuesday at the Firelands Schools.
A new check-in protocol will be used to confirm the identity of visitors to Firelands Elementary, South Amherst Middle School, and Firelands High who intend to travel past the main office.
A computer system called Raptor will also be used to scan Ohio driver’s licenses or state ID cards, checking them against a national sex offender database.
Raptor will scan the visitor’s name, date of birth, and photo. Approved visitors will be issued name badges.
“If a parent is coming in, dropping off Johnny’s lunch, they’re not going to go through this process because they’re not going beyond the office,” said superintendent Mike Von Gunten. “We’re talking about people who are coming into the hallways, coming into the classrooms, seeing children in the educational setting.”
Purchasing Raptor cost $6,400 for name badge printers, scanners, and a set-up fee. There is also a $2,000 annual fee for the service.
Von Gunten said he discovered the system at a trade show in November at the Ohio School Boards Association annual meeting.
Though there have admittedly been no problems with sex offenders trying to gain access to students, the superintendent said security has been much on his mind.
“Do I think we have a lot of these people coming into the building? I don’t think so. But if we have Mrs. Jones, we want to make sure it really is Mrs. Jones,” he said, later adding, “I wanted to more clearly identify who our visitors were.”
Raptor can help the schools be more vigilant with custody issues and be a deterrent to any violent intruder, Von Gunten believes.
“We sometimes think we’re immune to these things that happen ‘in other places,’ but the reality is that we’re not immune,” he said.
The enhanced security will only be used during the regular educational day, not at Falcons sporting events, band and choir concerts, or public meetings. Von Gunten said checking identities among large crowds is unrealistic.
Raptor isn’t the only step Firelands have taken recently in the interest of security.
A new entrance has been installed at Firelands Elementary. Visitors are now able to only enter through the office. Another set of doors that previously opened into the school has been converted to be only accessible from inside.
The Vermilion Road elementary school has also received new surveillance cameras, which are integrated with the online safety program Navigate Prepared. That system gives firefighters, police, and EMTs a remote set of eyes into the school.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
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