One of the calls from school, in the barrage of robos I’m receiving that marks the start of the school year, informed parents about the new security measures governing entry to the school building.
The multi-million dollar new system, called Raptor, attempts to prevent school building access by registered sex offenders. Coupled with new door buzzers and a network of cameras, Raptor is used by school office personnel to perform instant background checks on all visitors during classroom hours only.
Dale Rauenzahn, BCPS Executive Director of Security, explained the new procedures. “When a visitor arrives at the school, they will be on camera from the time they approach the door until they get into the main office and while at the counter.”
All visitors will be required to check in to the office to be cleared and issued a pass before they will be permitted access to the school. The visitor will be asked to present a government issued photo ID, which will be scanned into Raptor. Raptor will capture the name, date of birth, the first four digits of the ID number, and the photo of the visitor. This will go into a secure server for use only by the Raptor system in each county school, according to Mr. Rauenzahn. Raptor will perform an instant background check against the sex offender registry and issue a printed pass or, if a match occurs with the registry, an alternate set of procedures will be initiated.
“Raptor has a notification built into the system which sends alerts automatically out to the principal, assistant principal, School Resource Officer, and the Department of School Safety and Security,” said Rauenzahn.
Sex Offender protocol
Sex offender registrants who are parents of school children currently must receive prior written permission from the principal to enter school property. If granted, the school must provide an escort for the time the individual is present at the school.
The Pupil Services Manual describes the procedures here (scroll to last few pages).
Parent privacy concerns
Mr. Rauenzahn says that state law allows elementary, secondary, and higher institutions to demand ID from anyone wishing to use the educational facilities.
If a parent objects to the privacy violation, he says the school can refuse them entry or school personnel can do “hand entry”, where they manually enter the visitor’s name and date of birth and perform the background check. But the procedure would have to be done each time that visitor wishes to enter the school. Whereas with Raptor, after the first time, the visitor will only need to furnish their name.
Several other counties and jurisdictions have been or are beginning use of Raptor in Maryland. Mr. Rauenzahn says Anne Arundel has been using it for five years, Prince George’s for one or two, and Baltimore City is starting this year along with Baltimore County. Howard County has had it in use already according to a Facebook post.
More details on the system and procedures can be found in the BCPS Emergency Manual here (scroll to last few pages).
While I think the system may have some limited value, I’m a cost versus benefit girl. I can’t help but question the expenditure, especially in consideration of the value of either an armed officer or armed school administrators.
My final thought was actually my first impression when I heard of the system. America continues to head toward total citizen surveillance except in voting integrity. Go figure.
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