Some schools in the Twin Cities metro, including those in Eden Prairie, are set to implement a new visitor management system before the coming school year to enhance safety in schools.
Entire districts are adding high-tech tools to screen and manage visitors on school grounds, and similar technology can also be found in some hospitals.
Most people remember a time when the doors to school were not locked, but Brian Koch, safety director for the Robbinsdale Area School District, says the future will be different.
"It's changed radically since Columbine," he said.
Even before the Sandy Hook massacre, Koch had been looking for a way to increase security in the district. Currently, that's why everyone who enters a school building needs to be buzzed in by a video intercom system.
"Right now, if you go into a school, it would be rare to find any main -- other than the main entrance -- open," Koch explained. "A lot of schools now, you'll find the main entrances will be locked down. You'll have to get permission to enter."
Once inside, a sign-in sheet will no longer do. They'll swipe your driver's license, record the name and time to create a name tag. The school can also record specific notes about the visit, including instructions for each child.
"By using a driver's license, we know it is who they say they are," school secretary Lori Opitz said. "If there's anything that should be flagged as far as an alert, that is indicated on our system."
All 15 schools in the district will debut the technology this year.
"Obviously, we want to scan people and know where the threats are, where they aren't, and take appropriate action," Koch said.
The Eden Prairie School District's new system, Raptor Visitor Management, takes tracking visitors and volunteers even farther.
Upon entering, all visitors will have their driver's license or other government-issued ID scanned. The visitor's name, birthday and photo will be stored in the system, and the information will be crossed against a national database of registered sex offenders.
The Raptor Visitor Management system logs all visits. If a sex offender is identified by the scanner, an e-mail or text message will be notify the principal and local law enforcement.
The system also allows the school to print a visitor badge containing the person's name, photo and the date. Upon leaving, the visitor will be required to log out before exiting the building.
For a repeat visitor whose information is already in the system, the person will still need to print a new visitor badge when entering; however, they will not need to scan their ID every time.
On its website, the Eden Prairie School District said the scanned information will not be used by the district for any other purpose.
Those who do not have an ID with them will need to contact the building administrator and seek permission to enter. It is possible to manually enter a name into the system, but proper identification is preferred.
The Eden Prairie system will not be used during large events and activities held after school hours.
Such systems are already in use at 8,000 schools and facilities across the country.
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