Magazine article District Administration

Brave New World of School Security

Magazine article District Administration

Brave New World of School Security

Article excerpt

IF YOU VISIT THE SCHOOL DISTRICT of Manatee County in Florida, be ready to hand over your driver's license to have it swiped and checked against a database of sex offenders.

Welcome to 21st-century school security in a post-9/11 world. While many districts have adopted programs and equipment to deter violence, including more recently kidnapping and child molestation, Manatee County schools take a novel and comprehensive approach to security. District leaders integrate prevention, intervention, staff development, and regular communication with law officials, periodic assessments, emergency training and planning, and mental health support as part of the district's overall safety and security plan.

Florida is one of two states that mandate criminal background checks and fingerprinting for anyone working for or regularly visiting a school. "It's the sign of the times," says Ozell Hayes, safety and security specialist for the district. "Everyone wants to be safe at work and to know their loved ones are safe, especially at school. So we have to do everything to make sure everyone is protected."

Multiple Systems

Every one of Manatee County's 51 schools is equipped with cameras, motion detectors, the visitor management system, infrared systems, which are used after hours to track a burglar in a school via body heat, and a Web-based student accident reporting system, which lets staff record every student accident, whether on the playground, the football field, in the gym, or in the hallway.

The StudentWatch Accident Reporting System allows Hayes to track everything from potentially faulty playground equipment to whether a student has been in several accidents at school. "It can trigger whether someone is being harassed by a classmate," he explains. Because the reports can be completed quickly, they are done more often and received in a day rather than three weeks, as was the case in the past. …

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