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Visitor Management for a Safer and More Efficient School
Today, school security and the
safety of students and staff is
one of the most debated topics
in our country. Recent
tragedies have highlighted the
need for us to take a look at current practices
and policies in place so that we can prevent
losses in the future. One area of interest that
any school, big or small, rural or metro,
could benefit from reevaluating is visitor
Every day, our schools welcome in parents,
guardians, visitors, vendors, volunteers, substitutes
and more to participate in school
functions. They might sign in on a piece of
paper held by a clipboard or in a book, and be
asked what their name is, where they’re
going, why they are on campus, and the date/
time. Once they have written something
down, a handwritten visitor pass might be
given out and then they gain access to the
most vulnerable parts of a school building.
How often, though, have you noticed a
visitor didn’t fill out all the information your
school requested? How do you know they
put down their actual name and not a fake?
Is there any way to double-check that this
particular individual is allowed to be on
campus and have contact with students?
These are just a few questions schools should
be asking themselves when reflecting on
their current visitor management processes.
Say you do pretty well with collecting the
information you do want. That’s great, what
happens when you need a report of the volunteer
hours for the week, tardy students for
the day, or the number of visitors for the
month? Just like the safety of your school,
time is valuable. Traditional visitor management
with a piece of paper does not allow for
background checks to be performed or easy
report generation, taking time away from
other tasks you could be working on.
Benefits of Electronic
To address these issues that schools nationwide
face, electronic visitor management
systems were developed. So, what exactly is
an electronic visitor management system?
Simply put, it is an application used to track
those coming in and out of your school for
easy record keeping. For years now, companies
have been providing electronic systems
that go beyond collecting the basic information
of a visitor’s name, date and time to provide
a comprehensive view of the traffic your
school receives and provide an extra level of
security when needed.
Increasing safety for your school can
begin with scanning the licenses of all your
visitors. By scanning the 2D barcode on the
back of a valid driver’s license to gather the
needed information, like full name and date
of birth, an electronic visitor management
system can search for a matching sex offender
record and alert you to take the appropriate
steps needed if a match is found. Scanning
licenses has another benefit as well:
You’ll be keeping out all the visitors who
attempt try to sign in under a fake name
because fake IDs won’t scan when the 2D
barcode is presented.
Similarly to how a visitor management
system can check for potential sex offenders,
it can also help you detect custody issues and
other banned persons. It is not all that
uncommon these days for there to be restrictions
on who is allowed to meet with a student
or sign them out. By creating a database
of custody issues, your school can easily stay
on top of who has access to visit students and
sign them out early without having to dig
In addition to scanning licenses, schools
have the option of capturing a live photo of the
visitor when they check in, and ensure that
photo is accurate with the use of face detection.
If an incident happens on campus after a
visitor signs in a student might not recall all the details of who they saw. Being able to pull
a current photo of those who have signed in
for the day can give your staff and School
Resource Officer (SRO) a better chance of
finding the person that is causing an issue.
Collecting signatures when a student is
being dismissed early is important for any
visitor management process. Schools can
collect signatures on screen from a touchscreen
monitor and save signatures to their
reports for future reference if needed. This
provides another level of accountability and
reduces school liability.
All of this information collection leads us
to what is certainly one of the most useful
features of an electronic visitor management
system, and that is the ability to create
reports quickly and easily. In the event of an
emergency, you might need to know who is
still on campus after they have checked-in.
This cuts down the worry and time needed to
identify all the people on your campus.
With the use of visitor management systems,
your front office can run more efficiently
by automating the tasks your staff
used to do manually. Accurate reports, volunteer
hour calculations and tardy counts
are taken care of as soon as they are logged.
An easy-to-use kiosk is a great way to quicken
the sign-in process for your visitors while
also allowing for you to provide a welcoming
experience and make sure visitors are using
your system correctly.
Perhaps the biggest efficiency feature
schools can take advantage of with a visitor
management system is the ability to integrate
with other systems, like School Information
Systems (SIS), to significantly cut down the
time needed to enter information in. With a
secured integration, a school can have their
tardies, early releases, student rosters, volunteer
lists and student-parent relationship
databases synced at all times.
Building A Policy
Purchasing an electronic system is not the
end of improving your visitor management.
This is a big change in policy for gaining
access to your campus and there is more that
goes into a successfully implemented visitor
policy than just purchasing a system. Here
are three simple things to create a policy that
is effective and easy to follow.
Communication. When making a change
that can be as big as a new way parents and
volunteers need to check-in, you need to tell
them. Consider everyone that might be
affected by the change and make a list. Sending
out emails or letter home before making
the switch can help against fear of adoption.
Let your constituents know what the changes
will be, when to expect the new process, why
these changes are coming and how they can
Doors. There’s something at every school
that is used every day and by everyone that is
vital to a great visitor management policy:
doors. You can take a huge step towards greater
security and safety just by locking down
your doors except for the ones that lead to the
front office. You should make it as hard as
possible for people to not go through the
office, sign in on a system and meet the staff.
Training. Your staff can be at their best
when they are trained properly and empowered
to make the decisions they feel are right
for your school. It is recommended that you
elect for any training that a visitor management
system provider offers. Their professionals
are going to know the system through
and through. It’ll be easier than trying to
figure it out yourself and being frustrated
when the settings aren’t the way you want
them, or you don’t know what a button is for.
If an alert for a potential sexual offender
or an unauthorized parent comes up, what is
your staff to do? This might not have been
something you have had to address before.
Outline the steps to take for certain scenarios
and empower your staff to make judgement
calls that might come up. It is better to
have these types of hard decisions figured
out ahead of time, written down, and communicated
to relevant staff members.
Finally, any electronic system, especially
one that collects and stores student data,
must be secure. To assure data security,
school districts require vendor systems to be
compliant with The Family Educational
Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and it is a
benefit to also see that company has signed
the Student Privacy Pledge. These are common
standards that should be upheld. Secure
Socket Layer (SSL) technology, encryption,
firewalls, and private secure bandwidth
should be used to maintain highest security
standards. It is also important to make sure
that the only people with access to identifiable
data are those that need it. This could be
those staff members who directly work with
the system and the system providers so that
they can provide technical support and troubleshooting
Together, with the use of an electronic
visitor management system, proper training
and empowering your staff, your school can
improve both security and efficiency.
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.