Creating a Campus Visitor Management Plan

Creating a Campus Visitor Management Plan
Patrick V. Fiel, Sr.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there are now more than 600,000 registered sex offenders in the country.  And each day, according to the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children, more than 700 children are reported abducted.

Those are numbers that should frighten any parent and grab the attention of elementary school administrators and principals as they prepare for a new school year. 

It is far too easy to walk onto many school campuses unchallenged.  If a school has a visitor management plan, it likely consists of a voluntary sign-in book in the administrative office. 

As one of the first steps in protecting people and property, every school needs a visitor management plan that includes basic policies and procedures, which generally are inexpensive and easy to implement.

Here is a look at some of the basic components that should be part of a good visitor management plan. Each school should:

    •    Limit the number of campus entries.  Many schools allow students (and who knows who else) to enter the campus from multiple points.  Elementary schools, in particular, should have one entry into the campus for students, parents and other visitors.

    •    Station school resource officers and/or administrative staff at each access point to monitor who enters the campus immediately before and after school and during lunch (if students are permitted to leave campus).  Permit only known students and volunteers to enter.  Direct all other visitors to the office.

    •    Require all teachers and staff to wear a photo/ID badge at all times while on the school grounds. 

    •    Require that all parents, volunteers, vendors and other visitors show a state-issued identification card and leave a home telephone number and reason for being on campus as well as the time at arrival and departure. Have each visitor wear an ID badge while on campus.

Each of these steps requires very little expense at the campus level beyond a registration book, a pen and adhesive labels. 

Basic electronic security products add a higher measure of security.  Intercom systems allow visitors to communicate with office personnel while still outside the school.  Many systems also come equipped with black-and-white or color cameras that allow the school staff to not only hear, but to see who wants access. 

There are also visitor management systems that are capable of capturing a digital photo of the person as well as a digital image and details of the individual's identification, such as a driver's license, passport or business card.   That information can be compared against national sex offender registry or other federal and state crime databases.  A check of this type takes only a few seconds. These systems can also take a visitor’s picture and print a temporary photo ID badge in less than a minute.

It is also easy to program local information, such as temporary restraining orders, into the system. This will help prevent a child from being removed from the school by a parent who is not permitted to do so.

School administrators can no longer delay putting a strict visitor management plan into place to protect their students, staff and property.  Far too many of our nation’s campuses are virtually wide open to sexual predators or other common criminals. The time to act is now.

Patrick V. Fiel, Sr. is the public safety advisor for ADT Security Services.