Schools launch security upgrades

Loudon High School assistant principal C.J. Martin, right, hands a printed visitor sticker to LHS English teacher Jason Hughes.

Loudon County Schools will enhance security with the start of the new year.

Administrative offices will be able to ensure visitors do not pose a potential threat to students through Raptor, which digs into the sex offender registry and school-based custodial issues and alerts staff of any concerns through texts, emails and/or phone calls within seconds of the ID being swiped.

“It’s a visitor management system that they just add in the front office for an extra layer of security and knowledge of who is checking in to see the kids,” Matthew Tinker, county high school supervisor and career and technical education director, said. “It provides a print-out badge with all of their information that’s pertinent to where they’re going in the building. It’s got their picture on it, and it will check the database when they put their government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license, passport ... into it, and it checks the database against sex offender registry and the schools’ files for custodial issues. Anytime that a parent’s not supposed to have contact with a kid, it can check that.”

The program will be in full swing when classes resume Jan. 6, Tinker said.

Loudon High School has been piloting the system for nearly a month.

“At first, it was kind of cumbersome for the parents to say, ‘What do you mean you have to scan my license?’ but we explained why we were doing it, and parents were more receptive,” C.J. Martin, LHS assistant principal, said.

Schools have taken steps over time to add layers of security, especially for visitors.

“Over the past few years, we’ve added in security entrances where people are buzzed in at the front,” Tinker said. “This year, we put a film on a couple of the schools, and there’s some more that we’ll do. It’s a film that is a reflective film on the main windows. ... From the inside, you can see right through, but from the outside, it creates a reflection of where you can’t see who’s walking up and down the hallways. We’ve changed out all of the locks on the doors to where they’re just push button from the inside, and the teacher doesn’t have to step out into the hallway to put their key in the door in case of an emergency or lock down. We’ve added a lot of cameras to the inside and outside of the school.”

The new technology can also help school administrators keep tabs on various data.

“The Raptor system will just increase our security at school,” Marvin Feezell, Philadelphia Elementary School principal, said. “It’s an electronic system that helps us track not just who’s on campus for safety reasons, in case of an evacuation, we have electronic accounting for those, where before, that was something we tracked on paper. So that will be more accessible to us during an evacuation to make sure people are safe.

“It allows us to monitor data that will allow us to see how frequently visits are occurring and who is visiting and when,” he added. “It can actually help us plan for future events, things of that nature as well.”

Tinker believes the new system is a necessary precaution.

“It’s just a different day and time than I went to school,” he said. “You can never be too safe. These kids are our county’s most valuable resource, and they deserve the best protection that we can give them from any threat that we can think of. We just try to think of when they come to school, it’s an environment where they have no concerns about their physical safety, that they can concentrate on their school work and try to be the best person they can while they’re there.”