Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Latest Hot School Gear: Photo Ids Student Safety

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Latest Hot School Gear: Photo Ids Student Safety

Article excerpt

Many students will be wearing more than just new school clothes as they head back to classes this fall.

They will be wearing photo ID badges, small plastic cards that many school administrators say can help boost class attendance, discourage intruders on campus, and foster a greater sense of accountability among high school and middle school students.

The move is part of a nationwide effort by school administrators to find ways to beef up security in the wake of a particularly disturbing year of school shootings and other violent incidents on campuses.

Miami is one of the districts in the vanguard of the movement - one that raises questions about the tradeoff between protecting children and instilling a bunker mentality in schools.

School-safety and education experts warn that there is no easy answer to the question of how best to protect children from violence.

"Schools have traditionally been very safe places," says Barbara Wheeler, president of the National School Board Association in Alexandria, Va. "But there is a higher awareness that our world has changed and we want to make sure that the people who are in our {school} buildings belong in our buildings."

There are no recent statistics reflecting how many schools currently require students to wear photo ID badges. A 1993 survey found that roughly one-third of all schools required students to carry or wear photo ID.

Lawrence Levinson, president of Photo Scan Inc. of Morrisville, Pa., sells equipment to schools that allows them to make their own bar-coded ID cards. "Our business is increasing dramatically each year," he says, with sales to more than 40 new schools in the past year.

Administrators and other experts say that badges are increasingly being required in large urban schools that are experiencing problems with gang-related activity on school grounds and chronic truancy.

But even some smaller suburban schools are opting for badges, viewing it as one of many measures that might help bolster security and safety.

IN Miami, the nation's fourth-largest school district, administrators have begun a pilot program to assess the impact of requiring all students to wear photo identification cards to school. The project is taking place at a high school, a middle school, and two elementary schools. If successful, it could lead to a recommendation that all 300-plus schools in the Miami-Dade School District require students to wear ID badges to school. That would be more than 351,000 badges.

At present, 11 high schools and 13 middle schools in the Miami district require badges. Those decisions were made on a school-by- school basis.

Henry Fraid, Miami-Dade's deputy superintendent of schools, says that badges can help staff quickly identify student troublemakers in crowded common areas like a cafeteria and can help discourage outsiders from entering school grounds. …

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