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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.

Marlboro Township school administrators are reviewing security polices in the district in response to the tragedy in Newtown, CT last week.

In addition to keeping doors locked during school days and maintaining one entry and exit point, the township has already added security technology since the Columbine High School shootings in 1999.

"We've always been way ahead of the curve," Superintendent Dr. David Abbott said. "Obviously, this situation in Newtown, CT changes the dynamic."

Schools are equipped with video-monitoring systems and recently added a data-driven security system.

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.

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.

"I think it's working very well, it's an evolutionary process and some schools are using it even beyond what we intendent. It is becoming a way of electronically connecting information such as when children are checked out early are come in late," Abbott said.

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 of anyone visiting.

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."

anonymous December 20, 2012 at 02:01 PM
"Abbott said in one 3-month period, 24 people failed the initial background check by the system because their names were similar to those on sex-offender registry." And they think that somehow this is a successful system? All of the schools have all of the information on all of the parents/guardians. All a parent/guardian should need to do is prove they are the same person already in the school's database. You should not need to undergo a state/federal background check to enter your child's school when the school has a database to tell them exactly who you are. Safety is good - insanity is not.
milton McC December 21, 2012 at 06:24 AM
And what is your take on armed police in the school?
My Name December 22, 2012 at 01:47 AM
The background checking is not for parents to "prove" who they are. It is a mechanism to add a layer of security which checks the "unknowns" who regularly come into schools for all kinds of reasons. While it is agreed that having to do a state or federal background check on parents every time they visit a school is a little excessive, it does give me some peace of mind that my children are protected from the people who are unknown to the school.
anonymous December 22, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Totally ridiculous!!! Fort Hood had a shooting whereby 11 members of the military were shot. And the base is patrolled by military and Department of Defense police.

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