Though experts agree that technology isn’t a cure-all for school violence, some school systems have beefed up their security measures recently with the help of high-tech solutions.
Visitors to Oklahoma’s Jenks High School, for instance, soon must pass by a new high-tech school safety tool called LobbyGuard.
In an effort to strengthen school security, LobbyGuard’s visitor-management kiosk can instantly check all campus visitors against national and state sex offender registries and other criminal databases and notify appropriate school and district personnel if a match is made, its makers say.
“One of the most challenging areas for most of the nation’s schools is the monitoring of who is coming into our children’s buildings,” said Roger Wright, executive administrator of school safety and emergency preparedness for the Jenks Public Schools.
LobbyGuard, made by LobbyGuard Solutions LLC, reportedly is used by hundreds of public and private schools and school administrative facilities across the United States. The demand for visitor background checks has come from school systems themselves, LobbyGuard says, even before states started passing the Jessica Lunsford Act. The act, commonly known as “Jessica’s Law,” requires schools in those states to screen campus visitors, volunteers, and vendors against criminal databases.
Although Oklahoma does not currently require background checks, Wright said he believes this security measure should not be overlooked.
“The LobbyGuard kiosk will improve the Jenks school district’s ability to more accurately ensure that an individual coming into a school is not a registered sex offender, does not have outstanding warrants for his or her arrest, and does have custody rights to the specific student he or she would like to pick up,” he said.
LobbyGuard will be part of existing Jenks security measures that include physical building design, limited access points, a campus police department, and interior and exterior video surveillance.
In New Jersey, the Freehold Borough School District has installed an iris-scanning security system in its three schools that allows parents, school staff, and others registered in the system to enter locked buildings by staring into a camera.
The initiative is the second of its kind funded by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which is using the projects to study the feasibility of the technology in schools and to test the public’s reaction. The biometric equipment is similar to what the federal government has tested in its registered traveler program, which allows frequent flyers to avoid lines at airport security checkpoints (see story: http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/ showStory.cfm?ArticleID=6148).
And Virginia’s Prince William County Public Schools are piloting a new type of software that aims to permit communication across a wide range of devices that school systems already have–including cell phones, two-way radios, personal digital assistants, and even video cameras. If the software works as intended, it could improve emergency preparedness by creating secure, multi-platform lines of communication between school campuses and federal, state, and local first responders.
The district’s purchase of the CoCo protocol software from CoCo Communications Corp. was funded by another DOJ grant (see story: http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/ showstory.cfm?ArticleID=6086).
Editor’s Note: For more information on how schools are using high-tech tools to improve safety, watch for our Special Report on School Safety in January.