Four North Kitsap schools pilot visitor management system

POULSBO — Four North Kitsap schools are testing a program that they say will help manage visitors to district schools in an attempt to improve school safety and security.

Michael Olsen, director of student services for North Kitsap School District, said that late last month Kingston Middle School, Poulsbo Middle School, Poulsbo Elementary School and Richard Gordon Elementary School have installed and started using a visitor management system called Raptor. The schools are piloting the program ahead of its planned implementation of a district-wide visitor management system before the end of the year.

According to the Raptor Technologies’ website, “The Raptor System can help your school screen out registered sex offenders, manage custody issues, coordinate volunteers and respond to emergencies.” The website also claims the program has “identified and alerted officials to more than 50,000 sex offenders attempting to enter our clients’ schools and issued over 250,000 custody alerts. The Raptor system has also been credited with the arrests of numerous absconded sex offenders that have crossed state lines.”

Here’s how the program works: When a visitor enters the main office of a school, the individual provides the front desk attendant with a government-issued form of identification. The ID is then scanned and the ID’s information is checked against all sex offender registries in the United States. The visitor’s name is then printed onto a badge with their photo, destination and the date and time of their visit.

Olsen said he’s still getting feedback from schools about how the program is working, but most of what he has heard has been positive.

“I’ve only talked with one parent that had concerns,” Olsen said, explaining that the sole concern brought to his attention has been with one of the flagship features of the Raptor system.

“It automatically checks visitors against the national sex offender database, and this particular parent thought that that was a little overly invasive.”

That parent wasn’t the only one to take issue with Raptor’s ID requirement.

In September 2010, a Texas couple filed an appeal with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court against the Lake Travis Independent School District. The school district opted to implement the program after an incident in which a sex offender gained access to a district school and exposed himself to a child.

The couple argued that the inclusion of the system prevented them from being able to direct the educational upbringing of their child, a right guaranteed under the 14th Amendment. Ultimately, the court ruled against the couple, stating they failed to show how their constitutional right had been infringed.

Olsen said that if a parent of a child happened to be a registered sex offender, Raptor would not prevent them from carrying out duties, such as picking up their child from school.

“Certainly for somebody that was a registered sex offender, they have to have access, unless precluded to be on campus by law enforcement or a court order,” Olsen said. “We would be obligated to provide them access. We would just work with those individuals to make sure that it was a safe environment for everybody.”

As for whether the system will create new hassles for visitors, Olsen said as long as the visitors have a valid reason to be on campus, it shouldn’t be a problem.

“It shouldn’t restrict people who should be in the buildings, from being in the buildings,” he said. “It should provide another layer for our students and our staff to be able to make sure that the people [who are] visiting our schools, should be visiting our schools.”

Olsen said Raptor is the only visitor management system being piloted by North Kitsap schools. School officials are, however, keeping their eyes open for similar products that are reliable and recommended.

Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at ntwietmeyer@soundpub