Visitors to Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) are following a new protocol this year, in the name of campus safety.
To get past the front desk at any of the 10 main buildings in the school division, parents and other guests must present a driver’s license or some other government-issued photo identification card to the receptionist. Once the ID is inserted into the Raptor Visitor Management System’s scanner, the visitor’s name, photo and date of birth show up on the receptionist’s computer screen. The Raptor system checks the information against the Virginia Sex Offender Registry as well as a national registry of sex offenders.
The new system went into full effect across the school division on August 26. At the end of the day, Bill Berry, OCPS assistant superintendent for student and administrative services, said he’d heard no complaints so far, nor had Doug Arnold, OCPS supervisor of facilities and maintenance.
“The Raptor system will check to ensure that registered sex offenders are not entering our school campuses without our knowledge,” according to a letter Berry sent to parents and guardians.
“No other data from the ID is gathered or recorded and the information is not shared with any outside agency,” he added.
However, Berry said during an interview that the Raptor system is connected to Power School, another data system the school division uses, that contains information on child custody agreements. The coordination of data could raise a flag about a parent seeking to visit a child at school or take the child out of school.
If the Raptor system flags someone, Berry said the software allows the receptionist to quickly send text and email messages to a school administrator, school resource officer or law enforcement officer. The appropriate authority would then come to the front desk and address the situation.
Berry said there is a procedure registered sex offenders can follow if they have a legitimate reason to be on school property, but if they haven’t received advance permission to be on school grounds, they will be asked to leave. If they don’t leave, they would be trespassing and law enforcement would take it from there.
Before guests can get to the front desk, they first must be allowed inside the building. They press a buzzer near the entrance and then a receptionist can grant them entry via remote control of the electronically locked doors.
Provided a visitor is cleared to go past the reception desk, the visitor management system prints out an adhesive badge including the visitor’s name, date and time of arrival, destination and the name of the school building. Guests must wear the badges during their visit and return them to the receptionist when they leave.
Parents or guardians simply dropping off an item for a child or picking up paperwork don’t need to follow the Raptor protocol.
Berry said receptionists were taught how to use the Raptor system during the planning week before the new school year began. He believes the system is helpful to them.
“They’re not having to depend upon their memory of who is and isn’t in the registry. To be able to depend upon the computer to pull that [information] up—I think it’s a relief to them,” he said.
On its website, Raptor Technologies states that more than 28,000 schools across the country use its visitor management system. It is the latest layer of security put in place across the Orange County schools. All of the school buildings have extensive networks of video surveillance cameras, and Prospect Heights Middle School has about 50 new high-resolution cameras that were installed before the current school year began.
Berry said funding for the Raptor system and other security measures comes from competitive state grants earmarked for school security. Each grant requires a 25% match from local government. Last year, OCPS received $100,000 from the state and an additional $25,000 from the county to pay for the Raptor system and the new cameras at Prospect Heights. Berry said OCPS is applying for state funding for next year with a goal of increasing the security in the foyers in several county schools.