Making Schools Safer

Tuesday, March 13th 2007, 12:56 pm
By: News On 6

Oklahoma school officials say according to their research, safety is still the most important education issue for Green Country parents. In an effort to address those concerns, administrators took a look Tuesday at some high-tech security systems they hope will keep your kids safe. The systems were on display during a security conference hosted by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.

The News On 6’s Chris Wright reports school officials say the technology may be able to address some safety concerns, that is, if there is enough money to pay for it.

"We have so many ills in our society today. Divorce, parents wanting to go up and take the kids, school shootings, that we must provide a secure environment," said Oklahoma State School Board Association Executive Director Dr. Keith Ballard.

Ballard believes new security systems may be the best way to provide a safe environment. A number of surveillance systems for schools and buses were on display during Tuesday's seminar, but the one getting the most attention was Fast Pass. Once installed, Fast Pass requires anyone entering the school to swipe their ID. The system immediately identifies and logs anyone who enters the premises, and also checks to make sure the visitor is not a sexual predator. The system checks your name with the Oklahoma sex offender registry, denying access to those who aren't supposed to be there, but allowing access to those who are.

"Predators like to be anonymous, and visitor management and Fast Pass give them an identity immediately," said Jonathan Fox with Security Identification Systems.

The Jenks Alternative School installed a similar system last fall, and other administrators expressed interest in Fast Pass.

"I would like to see our school look at that, because it might be somebody you see every day that you know and could be on an alert list, and you have no idea," said Cindy Wilson with Sperry Schools.

While school board members say school safety is crucial, they worry that the recent statewide budget shortfall could put security on the backburner for a while.

“Yes, they could get pushed to the background, and that would be very unfortunate,” said Ballard. “Our state legislature needs to step up and take care of obligations so schools can continue to focus on safety issues."

Security Identification Systems says Fast Pass costs about $5,000 and is already being used in thousands of schools across the country. In addition to catching potential predators, the company says these systems can also serve as a deterrent to anyone even considering entering a school illegally.