NEWS

Philadelphia-Area Schools Invest in Sex Offender Screening Software

By Matthew Harwood

School districts in the Philadelphia area are installing a visitor tracking software solution to screen out sex offenders and other undesirables to prevent them from gaining access to their school buildings' hallways and classrooms, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Inquirer's Kathy Boccella describes what visitors face when trying to gain access to one school building:

The three mothers waiting to meet with the principal looked harmless enough, but before they were allowed into the Spring-Ford district school, they had to undergo a computerized background check.

The women gave their driver's licenses to a secretary, who scanned them against a national sex-offender database. All three were cleared and were given badges with their pictures, names, and destination printed on them.

The V-Soft solution created by Houston-based Raptor Technologies can also warn administrators or police of problem students, fired employees, and parents in custody disputes.Since the software tracks visitor traffic, it also allows administrators to put extra people at the front desk for lunch-time rush.

Boccella notes this is just one more addition to layers of security that now blanket schools after the Columbine Massacre of 1999, 9-11, and heightened awareness of sexual predators. Many schools now pay to have round-the-clock guarding services, cameras, and criminal background investigations on prospective employees and volunteers.

The Spring-Ford School District in Royersford, Pennsylvania, has installed the system at 13 area schools at a cost of $1500 a piece. "When parents, volunteers, visitors, or contractors check-in, as well as when parents come to pick up their child during the school day, they will be asked to present a valid state issued ID for entering into the system," the school district's letter to parents and guardians said. "The Raptor/V-Soft System scans a visitor’s driver’s license, matches the information against a registered sexual offender database and, if no record exists, it then prints out a photo identification badge. The entire process takes less than one minute."

The letter goes on to tell parents and guardians that the only information screened is whether their name appears on the registered sex offender database and that no other criminal histories are accessed.

Raptor says it has installed V-Soft in 6,000 schools since its creation 7 years ago. The company says the system flagged 1,700 convicted sex offenders last year.


♦ Photo by Conspirator/Flickr

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