Security upgrades at N.Y. school district screen sex offenders, track visitors

Carthage Central School District deploys Raptor software solution

June 24--WEST CARTHAGE -- Visitors to Carthage Central School District buildings will go through a new security system for admission that will cross-reference a national sex offender registry and provide visitors with a personalized pass with their photo printed on it.

"Essentially most schools have a sign-in sheet to monitor who comes into the school," said Ramona Dent, district director of computer technology. "Sign-in sheets aren't nearly as secure. The biggest positive is we will now truly know who is in our school district at all times."

The Raptor vSoft program was implemented earlier this month at all Carthage Central School buildings with classroom space. The Raptor program is designed to help schools and community facilities keep unwanted visitors out while tracking those they allow in.

When visitors enter the school, their driver's license or identification card will be scanned and their names and information will be cross-referenced with registered sex offenders in all 50 states.

"If there is a match to a name and date of birth, the screen will flash red and the driver's license photo will appear side by side with the photo from the sex offender registry," Mrs. Dent said. "The person behind the monitor will be able to use their judgment to say if it's a match and refuse to let the person into the school."

The new system also will cross-reference the name on the license with any names that have been put into the system by school administrators. Superintendent Peter J. Turner said the school could enter people with restraining orders or custody issues, or suspended or expelled students.

Mr. Turner said the security system will scan only for sex offender registries and the custom alerts. He said the program does not have the ability to search all law enforcement channels and won't be matched with traffic violations in other states or anything of that nature.

"It's not terribly intrusive. This isn't a full background check for everyone who comes to the school, and the information isn't stored permanently," he said.

Mr. Turner said the program is meant to ensure the safety of visitors to the highest degree possible. The only information stored is when the person came into the school, along with the name, date of birth and last four numbers on the driver's license.

Using a new system, visitors' identification cards will be scanned using Shell 800DX scanners and cross-referenced through the system. Then the visitor will be provided with a temporary pass with his or her name and intended destination.

"The new passes are stickier than the last ones and should stay on longer," Mrs. Dent said. "People in the school will be able to look at the pass and make sure the visitors are going to where they told the staff they were going."

The passes will have a different color for each building and a date printed so they can't be used more than once.

The cost of the software was approximately $9,000 for ID scanners, Shell 800DX and DYMO 450 Turbo badge printers, for all six buildings. That cost covers software, hardware and training. Mrs. Dent said the cost is being supported by the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Education Services, which is covering 86 percent, leaving the district to pay 14 percent of the cost.

Mrs. Dent said the district looked at several computer programs and ultimately decided to purchase the Raptor vSoft program because it was the least expensive and the most user-friendly. The staff was trained June 9 and the program was implemented at the entrance of each school shortly afterward.

"We wanted to roll it out around the end of the year so it would give everyone enough time to learn to use the system." Mrs. Dent said. The system is a browser-based software that is accessed by the Raptor website.

Mr. Turner said although the cost of the program was considered, the value of the new system lies in boosting the school's security. "There is an increased concern in school buildings across the country, and this is a simple step to protect our children," Mr. Turner said. "It's worth the price to increase the safety and security of our district."

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