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Redlands Unified schools will run visitors’ names through national sex-offender database

By Jennifer Iyer

Redlands Daily Facts

Published: August 10, 2018 at 6:16 p.m.

 

Parents, visitors and students might notice some new security measures at the entrances of Redlands Unified School District schools.

The district has been busy installing fences, doors and a card reader to create a single point of entry watched by the Raptor Visitor Management System.

As the new system gets implemented at schools, visitors will all have to enter through the office where they will submit a form of ID office staff can input into the Raptor system. The system will compare the visitor’s name and date of birth with a national registered sex offender database.

Chrissy Fitch, a mother of five and the PTA council president, said she had heard some concerns from elementary parents who want to drop and pick up their children on campus, which she has done for all her children.

“Feeling like you don’t have access to your children can be unsettling,” she said, but, she added “I would rather my child be protected than for me to be able to walk onto campus and just go to their classroom, because if I can, then anyone can.”

While visitors will not necessarily be prevented from coming on campus, the new system certainly adds more steps.

In the office, their ID will be scanned, or the information may be manually entered into the system, and once cleared, Raptor will spit out a sticker badge with their name, photo and the location where they are headed on campus.

The technology isn’t foolproof, however.

At a school in Apple Valley the system pulled up a false positive on a visitor with a common name, but staff members were able to use the information in the database to confirm it was a different person.

Fitch said the badge will give staff not only a sense of security but empowerment as well.

“When you go on a campus of five- to six-hundred little kids you’re not going to know all the parents, you’re not going to know who’s supposed to be there and who isn’t,” she said. “Having that official, very identifiable piece of information on someone’s shirt is going to make things easier to spot who shouldn’t be there.”

Some visitors, though, may be wary of having their names run through any kind of database.

“The sensitivity here lies with folks who may not be citizens that are fearful,” said district spokeswoman MaryRone Shell. “It’s not going to be any kind of database like that.”

The registered sex offender database is the only database checked by the system, according to a letter from the district sent to parents, and besides name and date of birth, no other data will be gathered or recorded, and no information will be shared with outside agencies.

“Based on your socio-economic background and cultural background, this could provide comfort, but it could also provide fear and intimidation,” Fitch said. She said she hopes the district is being sensitive to that in their outreach about the program.

“Our children benefit when these parents are active in our community, so I hope that that message is being pushed,” Fitch said.

Other local districts using the Raptor system include schools in San Bernardino City Unified, Fontana Unified and Apple Valley Unified.

The technology has been around for about 16 years, and is in place in more than 18,000 schools across the nation.

“I love it. I’m all about having our kids be safe,” Fitch said.  “I know that it can be seen as an inconvenience to visitors of the school sites, but I think inconvenience is not as important as the safety of our students and our staff.”