Managing School Visitors

As a kid, I lived across the street from the school in sleepy Byron, Wyo. It was a wonderful community where everyone knew everyone’s business. Going to school was like going to church; adults could come and go as they wanted.

Times have obviously changed since then, at least as far as who may visit the school setting. A typical school has lots of visitors during any given day, including parents, vendors and volunteers, most of which are honest, hardworking, caring adults. But some aren’t.

Many schools share the same security challenges and goals of providing a safe, secure place for children. Every school needs a written, reviewed and practiced visitor management policy. For starters, there should only be one visitor entrance. Once classes begin, all doors should be locked and remain locked while students are in class.

To access a school, visitors should be allowed to enter a door leading only to the main office. They must be able to produce a government-issued ID, which would then be checked against an electronic visitor management database. This would check the visitor against FBI and state and local law enforcement files.

The visitor will then be issued a printed badge that includes an expiration date detailing when that person arrived and should also have the ability to indicate when that person had departed the campus. While this may seem a bit extreme, more than 40 states have enacted some form or version of the Lundsford Act, first enacted in Florida in 2005. Also known as Jessica’s Law, the act was passed soon after Jessica Lundsford was sexually battered and murdered by a previously convicted sex offender.

School security takes into account the mindset of “this won’t happen at my school.” It is a vigilant reminder that something bad can happen anywhere.

As for the schools in Byron, well, they have consolidated into a thriving campus, centrally located in Cowley, Wyo., where Superintendent Shon Hocker said the days of wide open doors are long gone. Visitors at the school enter at the front door into a vestibule where the school secretary performs a security check. Thus, school officials know exactly where the visitor is going and how long they will be on campus.

This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.

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