Visitor Management System the First Line of Defense in Marlboro Schools
Data security system scans identification to check school visitors against the sex offender registry and school-created parent lists.
In recent board meetings at school districts in Holmdel and Hazlet, parents are asking school and police representatives how district schools can be made secure -- even if it will cost more money.
In Marlboro, in addition to keeping doors locked during school days, maintaining one entry and exit point, using video cameras and armed guards, the township uses a new data-driven security technology.
Marlboro schools received a grant in September of 2011 to put a new Visitor Management System in place, after the Safe Schools Task Force recommended the district update its security measures.
"I think it's working very well," said Superintendent Dr. David Abbott. "It's an evolutionary process and some schools are using it even beyond what we intended. It is becoming a way of electronically connecting information such as when children are checked out early are come in late," Abbott said.
The system, supplied through the LobbyGuard vendor, is able to scan identification and check school visitors against the sex offender registry and school-created parent lists. It can also print visitor badges with photos.
Parents coming to see a teacher or student have to scan their driver's license to enter and exit the school, keeping a digital tally.
Abbott said in one three-month period, 24 people failed the initial background check by the system because their names were similar to those on the sex offender registry.
The system is also used by schools to keep track of staff attendance, allow access to a comprehensive lists of visitors and can be used to track late sign-in or early check-out for students.
"It gives us another system by which we make sure the people that are coming into are school are people that should be there," Abbott said.
Some district schools continue to have security checkpoints at front doors, where parent volunteers sign-in guests and supply visitor badges.
The cost of the project was $75,000, and the Community Oriented Policing Services - Secure Our Schools (COPS-SOS) grant covered 50 percent or $37,500.
Working with Marlboro Police
Marlboro schools continue to work with the Marlboro Police Department to create security policies for several emergency situations, including in the event of a school shooting.
"Staff and students in the Marlboro Township schools began practicing lock down and evacuation drills immediately following the Columbine event," Abbott said in a news release.
"By the time the State of New Jersey mandated these drills for every school in the state (at least one-per-month per-school), our schools had been practicing them for years."
According to the news release, the police department also formed an Emergency Response Team which trains officers to deal quickly and effectively in emergencies such as a school shooting. This training is in addition to training for faculty, staff and teachers in the schools.
Officer training takes place after-hours and in Marlboro schools in order to be physically and mentally prepared in the case of an emergency.
The township regularly employs two resource officers in schools, one in the middle schools and one assigned to the elementary schools. According to the release, those officers are armed.
In the days following the Newtown tragedy, Marlboro police increased visibility around schools and on school property.
"We are working with the police to determine what more we can do, we take our guidance from [Chief Bruce Hall] and [Capt. Bart Lombardo]," Abbott said. "We certainly will learn from this horrific situation."