By Andrew Wroblewski
Secondary schools in the Northport-East Northport School District have started rolling out a new security protocol for visitors that scans their driver’s licenses against DMV and national sex offender databases.
Currently up and running at Northport Middle School – but to begin at East Northport Middle School and Northport High School in the coming weeks – a new “visitor management system” requires guests to swipe a driver’s license through a machine inside of the building before entering.
“The purpose is to allow us to be able to track the visitors that are coming into the building,” Nolan Briggs, supervisor of security for the district, said at Monday’s school board meeting. “When you’re talking about a building the size of a middle school or a high school then it’s going to be very difficult to know who… the parents [are]… [And] it becomes very, very important to better identify who is coming into the building.”
The system does more than track who’s coming and going, though.
By swiping a driver’s license, visitors to the schools will have their information run through both a sex offender database and the Department of Motor Vehicles from whichever state the identification was issued. Along with the $27,000 it cost the district to install the system in all three buildings, there is a yearly fee to subscribe to the sex offender database, Briggs said. This has been done, he said, to identify potential security threats.
“It’s something that we started taking very, very seriously after what happened in Sandy Hook elementary,” Briggs said.
A visitor’s pass will be generated with a photograph of the guest, their intended destination within the building and an expiration time.
News of the new system and nationwide scanning, however, was not relayed to parents before the school year began, East Northport’s Trevor Hubbard, the father of children in the district, said. When Hubbard went to drop his child off at the middle school after an orthodontist appointment, he did not have his driver’s license on him.
“I’m not a security expert, but I’m a common-sense person: I’m already in the building. How exactly is having my driver’s license going to affect anything?” Hubbard asked. “Listen, picking up a kid, maybe I can understand the use for that, but dropping my son off – what kind of crime are we trying to prevent?”
To this concern, members of the school board suggested installing vestibules in district buildings so that visitors can be identified before entering the building. The idea, discussed in the past by the school board, was deemed too expensive at one time. The board’s consensus was that future budget planning will look for ways to include them.
Hubbard also expressed concerns of having his personal information on his license in the hands of an unknown party.
Briggs maintained, though, that once the information is processed, it is only stored locally by the district and can be “flushed” after an amount of time determined by the district.
“In the case that we have someone who is actually a problem or that we don’t know could be a problem and becomes one, if we wash the info right away then we don’t have anything to share with the police,” he said, adding that he hopes to discuss the issue further with Superintendent Marylou McDermott and the school board.
News of the system joins a newly implemented Northport High School policy which requires students to display their identification cards in a visible manner on their persons at all times.