New technology in Va. Beach schools will check for sex offenders

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – School starts in just three weeks. When students in Virginia Beach go back to class, there will be a new system in place to protect them.

The technology will be put into all 86 Virginia Beach Schools.

“We want to make sure that our buildings are as secure as they can be and part of that is knowing whose in our buildings and where they are,” Dr. Aaron Spence, Virginia Beach School Superintendent said.

The system not only manages visitors, it tracks volunteers and their hours. It also cross checks state and national sex offender registries. The system takes seconds to complete, but may take some getting used to.

Photos: New security for Virginia Beach Schools

“It’s a question we are asking ourselves in a lot of institutions across the country, in our airports, our hospitals – should I spend a little bit of extra time to be safe? And I think right now the consensus in the community is yeah absolutely that’s the right thing to do for kids,” Dr. Spence said.

Taking a break from training at Plaza Middle School, Dr. Spence explained what visitors will experience when school starts.

“They’ll give us their ID, we’ll scan their ID right here and it will print out a badge for them that will have their picture and their name,” he said.

The cost including equipment and subscription costs $106,220. With 68,000 children in the division, this system costs about $1.56 per child.

Dr. Spence says the system is an important part of the division’s safety priorities.

Va. Beach School board presentation on new security system

“In this day and age, any step we can take to be proactive in making sure that our children are safe is a positive step for our school division,” he said.

10 On Your Side checked with the other six Hampton Roads cities to see if they had this or similar technology in their divisions.

Ari Durall, Public Information Officer for Portsmouth Public Schools, released the following statement:

Two schools are currently using the software, ScholarChip, to scan licenses to check for registered sex offenders. The system creates a visitor’s badge and logs all visitors in a database.

The process for many area schools is currently manual. Visitors provide their license or ID at the front office of the school. Their information is cross-checked with the parent emergency contact list. If the visitor is on that list, the visitor may sign in and is provided a badge. All visitors sign-out when they leave the building. Visitors not on the list are not permitted in our schools. Visitors on official school business are coordinated through the principal.

You can find more information on the software here: http://www.scholarchip.com/

According to Diana Gulotta, Executive Director of Public Relations and Marketing for Hampton Public Schools, “Hampton City Schools began employing the Raptor System two years ago. We use it in all of our school buildings.”

Bethanne Bradshaw, Public Information Officer for Suffolk Public Schools, released the following the statement:

Suffolk Public Schools has a volunteer management system called Volunteer Connect, in which volunteers must complete an online application and be run against state and national sex-offender registries before being approved to volunteer in a school.  It was implemented in all schools during the 2015-16 school year. SPS staff plans to review an expanded screening system for visitors as well for possible funding in the 2017-18 budget.

Visitors and volunteers sign in at the front kiosk or office, including a time in, time out, and where they will be in the building.  A staff member escorts them to that location, where another staff member takes over the visit or volunteer activity.

By SPS definition and practice, visitors would have no unsupervised exposure or contact with children, such as a family member attending a classroom or school event or having lunch with a child, or a classroom guest speaker, person from outside SPS meeting with a teacher for planning, college supervisors of practicum and student teachers .. and there may be other circumstances.

Volunteers are defined by SPS as those who might have limited unsupervised contact, and they must complete a volunteer application and be screened before approval.

Volunteers would be someone who comes to class regularly to help the teacher, someone helping with classroom parties, volunteer lunchroom monitor, volunteer reader, mentor or tutor who works with students, someone who works in the library periodically, chaperone for a school field trip, volunteer activity leader or “coach” who comes before or after school to work with students, volunteer front kiosk greet, partner organization members or business partner employees working with students, … and there may be other circumstances.

Kellie Goral, spokesperson for Chesapeake Public Schools says, “Chesapeake transitioned prior to the end of last school year (June 2016) from a similar system, which was Lobbyguard, to Raptor in all of our 47 school buildings.”

Karen Rose-Tanner, spokesperson for Norfolk Public Schools says they don’t have a system like the new one headed to Virginia Beach. However, Tanner said, “We currently have a digital system where they check in the schools electronically.”

Michelle Price, spokesperson for Newport News Public Schools, released the following statement:

Many Newport News schools use Ident-A-Kid Visitor Management Software. Visitors, parents and volunteers check-in and out via a computer in the office. A pass is printed for the visitor/volunteer. The software can run volunteer lists, visitors logs and track “tardies” when parents sign in their students after school starts.

All schools have intercoms/remote door systems so following school opening in the morning, visitors are required to ring a buzzer and identify themselves before gaining access to the front door.

Some of our secondary schools have security officers stationed at the entranceways. These officers greet visitors, check IDs and issue visitor passes.

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