Hoping to further bolster school safety and safeguard against potential tragedies such as the Newtown, Conn., shooting, Prince George’s County school officials are adding security enhancements such as ID scanner systems and high fencing.
Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell said a system that scanned visitors’ licenses and checked names against sex offender registries and other lists was in use when he was superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools. Produced by Houston-based Raptor Technologies, the system requires visitors to slide their photo identification through a digital reader, which will flag individuals listed on state sex offender registry lists and also keeps a log of all visitors.
“We are already looking into it, and I expect we will have something very similar to it, and get it installed soon,” Maxwell said during a Nov. 14 meeting with The Gazette’s editorial board.
Rex Barrett, acting security director for PGCPS, said the system is currently reviewing ID management systems and is hoping to have one implemented throughout the school system by January.
Bob Yatsuk, Anne Arundel supervisor of school security, said the Raptor security system placed in all 125 Anne Arundel County public schools has worked out well since its installation in 2005.
“You can put in private alerts also, if you have someone with a custody issue, or if the school has had a previous issue with a person,” said Yatsuk.
While he did not have statistics available by deadline, Yatsuk said quite a few sex offenders on school property were identified via the system.
Yatsuk said that if an individual is flagged, staff can compare photos or physical descriptions with the individual, and if they match, can send an alert to school security and police.
Yatsuk said Anne Arundel’s system cost $1,500 per school for installation in the first year, and now costs $470 per school per year.
Ernest Moore, president of the Prince George’s County PTA Council, said such a system could greatly improve school security.
“I think it’s a great idea. It provides an extra level of documentation,” Moore said.
Moore said his only concerns were the cost of such a system, and ensuring that staff are trained regarding confidential information that may come up.
Yatsuk said there were some initial concerns regarding privacy in Anne Arundel County.
“But that’s really gone away now, as people have understood the importance of keeping our schools safe,” Yatsuk said.
Jen Ontiveros of Greenbelt teaches at William Tyler Paige Elementary School in Colesville, which she said uses an ID scan system.
Ontiveros, who has children attending two Prince George’s elementary schools, said she would like to see such a system in her children’s schools.
“I think it may be a little difficult to get started, but once it’s up and running, it’s great,” Ontiveros said.
Maxwell said the design of new school construction will direct visitors to the office before they can access the rest of the school.
Referred to as locking vestibules, several new schools including Greenbelt Middle School, Fairmont Heights High School and Vansville Elementary School, have this feature and it will be included in the design of all future schools, Barrett said.
To secure temporary buildings, Maxwell said establishing a 6-foot fence around the perimeter will help limit unauthorized access, and is something the school system is working to provide at all 96 schools that use temporary buildings.
Other security efforts include conducting drills for an active shooter threat on both the schools and main school system levels.
“While you cannot stop someone with a Bushmaster from getting into a building, you can certainly limit what he can do with an appropriate security response,” Maxwell said.
The school system conducts active shooter drills in collaboration with local law enforcement every year. In July, an active shooter drill was held at High Point High School in Beltsville.