4 Ways to Improve School Visitor Management

The right policies, building design and electronic security solutions can overcome many of the weaknesses associated with paper logs and low-tech visitor name tags.

It’s not just seventh grade math that is complex. Equally head-scratching for parents, teachers and school administrators is how to ensure that visitors to K-12 educational institutions have a right to be there and are properly identified and recorded.

There are a host of reasons why a school would want to screen people before they can enter the building, ranging from fear of violence to unresolved custody disputes, to the need to keep track of everyone in the building in case of an emergency.

School-related shootings by outsiders have made the headlines in recent years and have raised awareness among school administrators about the need for vigilance.

Preventing sex offenders from gaining access to students is also a reason schools want to screen visitors. Registered sex offenders may target a school, as was the case recently in Raleigh, N.C., where a known offender tried to gain access to an elementary school using a forged letter from the principal. But the offender population can also include parents, other relatives, friends or guardians of children attending a specific institution.

Custody-related abductions are another area of concern. Although schools may require written forms that spell out who can pick up a child after school, an incomplete or faulty visitor procedure could cause confusion and allow a child to leave with the wrong parent.

Paper logs, in which a visitor writes his or her name and relationship to a student, along with the reason for the visit, are still the norm for the majority of K-12 schools today. The issue with these logs, of course, is that a visitor can use any name – from Mickey Mouse to Santa Claus – and unless there is someone who is overseeing the log and asking for the corresponding identification, a false ID will go undetected.

RELATED: Delaware Campus Updates Its Visitor Management System

Incorrect, incomplete or illegible paper sign-in systems also leave schools vulnerable if an incident occurs. If there is a fire or some other emergency that requires building occupants to shelter in place or evacuate, a school will need to have a comprehensive tally of who is in the building.

However, paper logs also run the risk of being damaged or forgotten in a crisis, and security personnel or first responders won’t be able to access the information remotely if they aren’t able to get to the office or station where the log is stored.

Additionally, often these hand-written logs are tied in with certain types of paper badges that can be easily duplicated or reused after being discarded by the legitimate user.

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