Florida's Manatee County Schools Consider License Scanners

Manatee County schools could soon be able to scan the driver's license of a visitor to see if he or she is a registered sex offender or a threat to kidnap a child in a custody dispute.

The driver's license scanners - which are on the market now for about $125 each, but not yet used in Manatee County - are one more tool school board members might consider to make local schools safer, Superintendent Roger Dearing said.

Dearing's remarks came after Monday's school board meeting where the results of a report showed that Manatee County safety procedures are effective overall, but include areas that need improvement, one being checking school visitors.

"I like the scanners, and they have come way down in price," Dearing said. "But not everyone has a license. You would find about 80 percent of people are licensed drivers."

Dearing said several agencies are working together to fingerprint and then develop a picture card of any frequent visitor to a school, including soda vendors, sports officials and meter readers.

The report, which was recommended by The Office of Program, Policy, Analysis and Government Accountability, was the summary of remarks and suggestions made by the district's staff, said Ozell Hayes, the district's safety and security specialist.

The self-assessment is required annually to be sent to the state, Dearing said.

Areas where Manatee has done well include giving blueprints and floor plans of schools to fire, police and emergency agencies, building new schools with one-entry access, holding regular fire and disaster drills for staff and students, and supplying each teacher with a flip-chart of what to do in emergencies, Hayes said.

Areas where improvements must be made include adding video cameras to help with vandalism, making transportation more orderly and getting visitors through the office before they walk on campus, Hayes said.