Tonya - posted on 12/10/2008 ( 5 moms have responded )
There's a hot topic in the news this week about the school security system used in a majority of Texas schools and all of Round Rock ISD campuses and facilities. The controversy surrounds that tiny scanning device in the front office where all visitors are required to swipe their driver's license or government-issued identification before being allowed to enter the building where children are present.
The system, operated by Houston-based Raptor Technologies, uses the first and last name, date of birth, and a partial ID number to screen each visitor against custodial restrictions and sex offender databases across the nation.
A couple whose children attended a Lake Travis ISD elementary school two years ago just filed a lawsuit saying that scanning their ID violated their constitutional rights.
This system is used in more than 5,000 schools nationwide and has been credited with helping in the arrests of absconded registered sex offenders (sex offenders who move from one state to another without re-registering as a sex offender and are removed from the old registry). And according to the news, the system also correctly identified more than 1,100 registered sex offenders entering those 5,000-plus campuses in 2008.
For those reasons alone, I can't understand anyone's objections. We bank, buy, sell and pay our bills online, so why wouldn't we want our schools to use the latest technology to help keep our kids safe?
I hated the old paper-sign-in-clipboard which only kept track of people who stopped in at the front office when they felt like it. Now, with the Raptor system, all of us wear (and watch that others are wearing) that very distinctive white sticker with a name, photo and destination. And instead of just one or two administrators keeping watch, we've got the eyes of all volunteers, teachers and visitors paying attention to who is inside our school at all times.
I debated the issue of "sex offender paranoia" with my husband. He thinks the media is to blame for making all of us panic over the word "sex offender." He had recently seen a story on television that outlined the trials and tribulations of being wrongly accused and trying to live with that label for the rest of your life.
It's a fact that the sex offender registries in all 50 states only list those people who are convicted of a crime - not accusations. Whether the victim is a six-year-old or a 16-year-old, the person is still a convicted criminal.
Another accurate argument is that most sexual crimes against children are committed by someone they know and rarely by complete strangers. It's still hard for me to swallow the "rarely" part, but I understand the argument.
However, my friend put it best the other day when she pointed out that it only takes one "boyfriend" of a mother who comes to school to eat lunch or volunteer in the classroom and sit down next to my child. I don't want his girlfriend's word that he's not a registered sex offender. I want to see that little white sticker on his shirt!
For me, a swipe of my ID is a small price to pay for my children's safety. Someone else coined a phrase that I plan to repeat often: "Your rights end at my child's nose."
Let me know what you think about this issue or if you have any ideas for this Family First column. I'd love to hear from you!
Tonya Kerr lives in Round Rock with her husband and three daughters. She's a former television news anchor, congressional press secretary, and public relations executive. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.