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New system will screen CASD visitors for criminal background

Written by Vicky Taylor, Public Opinion Online | Sep 27, 2016 1:00 PM
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A new scanner is being used in Chambersburg Area School District as a part of the new security system, seen Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. Photo by Markell DeLoatch, Public Opinion.

(Chambersburg) -- By the end of December,  Chambersburg Area School District parents can rest easier knowing that while their kids are in school, new security measures are helping to protect them from predators and child molesters.

CASD this week implemented the first part of what will become a district-wide system of screening visitors entering the interior of the district's 17 schools.

The system -- School Gate Guardian -- checks everyone who enters a school to make sure they aren't Megan's Law offenders.

The idea, according to Kristin Carroll, director of pupil services, is to add a layer of protection for the district's 9,200 students.

Visitors not going past the front offices won't have to be screened, but those who plan to go further, such as into a classroom, will have to provide a driver's license when they sign in.

"This is another layer of protection to ensure our schools are as safe as possible, for our faculty, staff and especially for our students," Carroll said. "The safety of our students is our highest priority."

A visitor's drivers license will be scanned and the information transmitted electronically to the Family Watchdog website. Within seconds it will verify whether the person is on the national Megan's Law list, using information such as the visitor's name and birth date.

The system also archives the details of the visit, including date and time, a photograph of the visitor, who they planned to visit and what their destination was in the school, according to CASD Police Chief Paul Weachter.

Then, if they aren't on the list, they will be issued a temporary identification badge.

The badge will be good for up to a three-hour visit before a sticker on it wears off and the word "void" printed underneath is exposed. The badge can be used only one time.

In addition to scanning the Megan's list registry and automatically recording details of each visit, the system has another feature that should please frequent visitors to the various schools, including volunteers and vendors who make regular visits.

Once a visitor comes in the first time and completes the screening process, the district can issue  a bar-coded visitor tag to those expected to come back again. That tag can then be scanned at the office window on subsequent visits, allowing the individual immediate access to the building after signing in.

On Monday Dara Dathoff, a family-based therapist who was at the high school to visit a client, went through the screening process and was issued one of the limited-time temporary passes.

"This is pretty cool," said Dathoff, the mother of a district preschooler, as she fastened her temporary badge to her shirt.

Although her child won't be in a district school in the immediate future, she said she will feel more comfortable when he does enter school, knowing a program like the School Gate Guardian system will be in place.

According to School Gate Guardian's website, there are currently over 800,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S., and 67 percent of their victims were juveniles, with 34 percent under the age of 12.

"Not only do we screen all our employees to make sure we don't hire convicted sex offenders, but now we can screen visitors  to make sure we don't let sex offenders in either," Carroll said.

The system went online at CASHS at 8:45 a.m. Monday. It is expected to be added at Fayetteville and Stevens elementary schools as well as the Career Magnet School before the end of the month. In October both Chambersburg middle schools, North and South, and Buchanan and Grandview elementary schools will be brought online.

In November, Ben Chambers, Guilford Hills, Hamilton Heights and Lurgan elementary schools are expected to be added to the system. Scotland, New Franklin, Marion, South Hamilton and Falling Spring elementary schools are expected to be added in December.

Vicky Taylor, 717-262-4754

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between Public Opinion Online and WITF. 

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