Visitors to Laguna schools will have to pass new screening process

Beginning in late April, visitors to any of Laguna Beach’s four public schools will need to provide identification to be checked against a nationwide sex offender database as the Laguna Beach Unified School District beefs up its security measures.

The district board Tuesday approved a contract with Houston-based Raptor Technologies to install a computerized system that will check a person’s name against the database, according to a news release.

The initial cost is $8,250, with a $2,700 annual fee to access the software, the release said.

“This system will further enhance the district’s efforts to improve safety at all schools by allowing school officials to monitor who visits the schools and when they are in the buildings,” Jeff Dixon, interim assistant superintendent of business services, said in the release.

School personnel will scan a visitor’s driver’s license, state identification or passport. The software then will run the person’s name, address and photograph through the sex offender database and get nearly instantaneous results, the release said.

Once cleared, the visitor — for instance, a contractor, volunteer or parent — will be issued a badge to wear while on campus.

The badge will bear the person’s picture and name, the time and date of the visit, and the area of the school that he or she is visiting.

If the system identifies a match between the visitor and the database, a school administrator is alerted.

Laguna Beach Unified’s safety committee evaluated school security procedures and communicated with other districts over the past year, Leisa Winston, assistant superintendent of human resources and communications, wrote in an email.

Under the current system, visitors sign in at a school’s front desk and receive something indicating their visitor status — depending on the school, it could be a generic badge or a sticker with little more information on it than their name.

Winston acknowledged in a follow-up interview that the screening process does not address the fact that people can bypass the front office, but she added that the district has “not had a lot of issues” with visitors simply walking onto a campus.

And besides, school employees are pretty observant, she added.

“It’s a training piece with our staff to recognize the [visitor] badges,” Winston said.

Parents have raised the subject of safety precautions at PTA meetings, saying they are “concerned we did not have systems like that,” Board President Jan Vickers said Thursday.

The system stores only a person’s name and whether he or she is a sex offender, no other personal information, officials said. On subsequent visits, a visitor will need to provide only his or her name. If a parent has children at more than one school, he or she will have to initially provide identification at each school.

“It’s not just for who they are, it’s where they are on campus,” said Vickers, explaining that in an emergency, campus staff would want to know the whereabouts of a visitor.

In the Irvine Unified School District, 35 of its 38 campuses are using the system, spokeswoman Annie Brown wrote in an email.

“We viewed this system as an opportunity to enhance student safety while streamlining our volunteer-screening process,” Brown said. Irvine is working to bring the remaining three high schools on board.

Nationwide, Raptor has identified and alerted officials to more than 50,000 sex offenders attempting to enter schools and issued over 250,000 custody alerts, according to the company’s website.

Twitter: @AldertonBryce