ID Badges Help Florida School District Secure Its Campuses

School uses photo ID badges to double as access control credentials for district's 11,000 employees


Lee County Schools in southwest Florida serves 80,000 students attending 81 schools, with facilities that encompass a total of 87 separate locations including the schools and administrative sites. More than 11,000 employees keep the district running smoothly, despite its fast pace of growth. As the district expands, keeping up with security concerns is a top priority of Security Surveillance Supervisor Greg Lindsay, who has overseen security for Lee County Schools for the past 16 years.

As part of an overall effort to consolidate and coordinate security functions among the disparate district locations, Lindsay and his department selected the Topaz Access Control System from GE, which integrates access control, video surveillance, alarm monitoring and photo ID badging in one package. The district chose the dual-sided, full color Zebra P420i printer to create its employee identification cards.

"Our main goal was double-sided printing, but we also liked the ease of use, the printer's portability, and the ability to hook the printer up to the district's intranet and network it," Lindsay reports. "We use the P420i to print identification cards for all the employees. The cards we use, HID proximity cards, also serve as access control credentials."

The cards include a high quality photograph, the employee's name and department, and a school logo. On the back is a message asking anyone who finds the card to return it to the district. Lindsay particularly likes the way the printer ribbons are designed, with a black strip at the end, so that less ribbon is used when printing on both sides of the card.

Previously, the district sent cards out for printing. However, the process took several days and about 20 percent of the cards came back with errors on them. Meanwhile, employees without cards were not allowed to enter any district facilities.

"If the printer is here, it's more convenient," Lindsay emphasized. "We can also design the cards the way we want them. Everything is right here and we don't have to wait on anybody."

Currently, the printer is packed up and taken to various locations to print employee badges for about five or six different departments. There is a plan in place to centralize printing operations in one area, however, with remote locations able to access the P420i printer via a network connection.

Because of the Jessica Lunsford Act, which was signed into law by Florida Governor Jeb Bush last May, any person who enters a school campus must be fingerprinted. The law is named for nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who was kidnapped and murdered by a convicted sex offender in Florida. Among other things, the law bans convicted sex offenders from school campuses.

The centralized printing operation envisioned by Lindsay will make it easier to create one identification card that shows an individual has been fingerprinted, without that person having to be fingerprinted at each school site. For instance, the printer could print a red band across the top of the card or a fingerprint icon alongside the photograph. Then, a contractor who maintains vending machines on campus would be fingerprinted once and then given a card that verifies his or her authorization to be on any Lee County school campus.

Overall, Lindsay said the district has found the P420i printer to be user friendly, and "one hundred percent reliable."

"We love the printer, and we'll probably have satellite sites that we can put more of these printers at and be even more efficient," he added. "It's made card printing more of a streamlined operation."

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