Visitors at West Jessamine Middle School are carded no matter what their age.
The school has added a driver’s-license scan to its check-in process. Principal Jim Freeman said the new procedure makes the school more secure by keeping much better track of visitors than the old pass system.
“We would give out visitors passes, but we felt like it had a lot of loopholes in it,” Freeman said. “We felt like this system was something that would give us a better systematic approach to it, that would shore up and tighten up some of our procedures and standards.”
When a visitor walks in, he or she hands over a driver’s license that is then scanned front and back into a computer on the front desk, with school staff checking the license against a state database. A personalized pass with a bar code is printed and given to each visitor.
Freeman said West Middle had been saving money for years to get the system and that it was in the works even before the Newtown, Conn., school shooting in December that made schools nationwide reconsider their safety policies.
“Obviously with the events that happened this year, it’s something that makes you breathe a little bit easier, but it wasn’t something that was a direct response to that,” he said.
In addition to tracking who is in the school electronically, the system can alert school staff immediately if it recognizes issues such as sex-offender status or custody disputes when scanning the license, Freeman said.
“It feeds into the database, and if there is an issue that pops up, then we’re immediately alerted to that, and then we can deal with it as we need to,” he said.
Freeman classified the system as more of an “information-gatherer” than an “information-reporter” and said he was not aware of any privacy issues raised with the license-scanning process.
The new system slowed down visitor check-in while parents got used to having their driver’s licenses out and ready, Freeman said, but it has not caused “extreme” or “noticeable” delays.
“They’re getting used to it now, so for those that are doing it and have seen it and are a bit more accustomed to it, I don’t think it’s slowed the process,” he said.
Superintendent Lu Young said many new safety processes can be inconvenient for parents but that she hopes they value safety even more after incidents like the Newtown shooting.
“When we make those decisions that we believe are in the best safety interests of our students and staff, then we really hope that we’ll have the goodwill in the community to say, ‘We understand why you’re doing that,’” she said. “If we tighten up visitor systems, for example, like scanning people’s driver’s licenses they’re in a building, that’s going to be irksome to some people, but our message needs to be it’s because of school safety.”