Waterloo schools implementing new security screenings - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo schools implementing new security screenings

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WATERLOO (KWWL)-- The Waterloo Community School District is in the process of installing a new security system that will keep track of school visitors.  The "raptor" system takes signing in to the next level by checking visitor identifications against sex offender registries.

The district says the new security system is not in response to any particular concerns.  It's more of a proactive measure and part of ongoing safety improvements the district's been making over the past few years.  And it's hoped that having added screening will help those efforts to keep kids safe.

"Hi. We have a new way of signing in.  It's called the Raptor system.  Can I see your driver's license?" a Waterloo district secretary said.

"Sure," a visitor said.

Every person coming into the Waterloo School District Education Center is now greeted just like that.  Their ID is scanned through a small device.  And in a matter of seconds, it compares the visitor's name against a national sex offender database.  If there's a match, the building's administrator is alerted.

"There are certain circumstances where under supervision, a person can be in the building but we'd want to know that person's here and we can keep that supervision as needed.  There might be other times where it might not be appropriate at all, in a very small number of cases.  But it gives us the opportunity to do that assessment before a person goes further than the office," said Sharon Miller with Waterloo Community Schools.

The system will also cross check names against building lists, which include information about past problem visitors and those who may be prevented from seeing students because of protective orders.  After an ID is scanned, it prints out a visitor tag.

"If people do not have a state issued ID, we can issue a district ID that's a pretty simple little process.  We just need their name and date of birth.  And they can use that also for admission," Miller said.

In the coming weeks, this security system will be implemented in all Waterloo Public Schools.  It will only be used during school hours, not for large events like concerts or athletic events.  And the system may prove valuable beyond just flagging visitors that might pose a security concern.

"If there should be an incident during the day, for example, when we have to evacuate and we want to account for everybody that's in the building, it's important we know that you as a visitor were in the building and maybe you're still there.  So we need that information really to protect everybody in the event of any kind of emergency," Miller said.

That's why the district feels the "raptor" system is a good investment in enhancing the safety and security of students and staff.

The "raptor" system will only enter your name and birth date from your ID once.  After that, building secretaries will just ask for your name and match it to the information in the system.  Access to the database will be limited, and since the information is also limited, the district does not feel there's a risk of identity theft.  But anyone with concerns is welcome to address them with district officials.

The new security system is being paid for in part by a matching grant the Waterloo Schools received from a US Department of Justice grant through the Waterloo Police Department.  The school district will contribute $800 per building in installing the system.

In addition to the ID screening, a new employee entrance has also been added to the district education center so that employees can simply scan their district ID to enter.

Additional Notes:

The system will also keep track of those who log volunteer hours at various schools, helping cut back on what was once a very labor intensive tracking procedure.

If a parent visiting a school is a sex offender, he/she may be granted access to the building, but may also be supervised by a district official during the visit.  Other visitors that show up on the sex offender list may be prohibited from school visits. 

KWWL Reporter:  Kera Mashek

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