Last week's elementary school shooting was tragic. In response, parents, lawmakers, mental health professionals and school officials are emotionally and politically compelled to do something to try and prevent it from happening again. But in that attempt to find a quick solution, the remedy may have undesired results.
Let's remember that in over 100,000 schools last Friday, there were no shootings, no killings and no threats to the students. What happened in Newtown Connecticut, however, is likely to change all school security systems and create a demand for tougher sanctions. Yes, and a loss of liberty for law-abiding, community-minded people that did nothing to deserve a clamp down on their liberties. Think TSA.
Well-meaning people need to understand that succumbing to new security systems is likely to come with unintentioned consequences.
Last week, two days before the Sandy Hook tragedy - I experienced a liberty loss first hand, as a grandmother. I was asked to prove I'm not child molester or a criminal before being allowed into a taxpayer-funded facility to watch our grandkids' annual "Holiday" program.
In the past, parents and grandparents were understandably asked to sign in before entry to the school. This year, there was a line out to the street in front of the Will County elementary school awaiting last Wednesday's daytime program. None of us in line had pre-registered with the school to be admitted for this year's seasonal musical, "Santa's Holiday Hoedown."
Standing in line, staff informed us that their school is one among thousands that now require any person admitted into their building to wear a sticker prominently displaying the visitor's name and photo. To obtain that sticker, a visitor must show a state-issued photo ID and have it scanned into the Raptor Technology system. If everything clears, a sticker is issued, and the visitor may enter the building.
"Thank you so much for your patience," the green-vested school administrator said to those waiting in line, by then in excess of 15 minutes. "We're using a new system to protect your children. We want to keep away anyone that's a child molester or has a criminal background," he said."We know that you want your children safe."
Once in Raptor's security system, visitors won't have to go through the process of having their ID scanned to get into the school, an assistant said.
Every person standing in line kept their mouth shut. Which of us would resist a quick background check for the children's sake? Who would balk at the demand, walk away on principle and forsake a chance to see their little ones perform a beloved Christmas tradition?
Who would choose liberty over their own grandkids' performance?
That would be me.
After realizing exactly what the school's administration demanded, the privacy forfeited, the liberty lost and the exposure to fraud and abuse such a scan would have opened up, I sadly walked out the door. I couldn't bring myself to do it.
But drivers license scanning is becoming more and more widespread. Tens of thousands of schools throughout the nation have bought into the Raptor Technology System. Hundreds of thousands of parents, relatives and friends have been checked out in the system, having been assumed guilty before proving their innocence with a cleared ID scan.
Don't roll your eyes. It's coming to your area, if it's not already there. And oh yes, you, as taxpayers, are funding it. And now that's especially true after last Friday's tragedy.
Raptor Technologies, LLC. claims that over the last ten years they have identified and alerted officials to more than 15,000 sex offenders entering campuses where children were present. They also assert that their system has led to the arrests of "numerous" offenders who have crossed state lines.
Beyond visitor management, Raptor’s V-Soft system includes additional modules that can track and screen volunteers, manage student tardies as well as early checkouts, and even track faculty by building.
Raptor is at the forefront of developing tablet applications and other integrated systems as mobile computers grow in popularity and scope. Raptor’s software is web-based, which allows the software to be instantly updated over the Internet with the latest features and functionality. This web-based platform also allows administrators to work offsite and not be tied to a single front office computer.
So there you have it. The proverbial frog in Raptor's kettle. Our lives and privacy available on the web to various school staff, Raptor employees and anyone else with access.
Does everyone feel safer now?
Sean Morrison, CEO of a security company, said this ID scanning had him undecided on what's best. He's the father of two young girls.
"I'm torn on this. I can see the privacy issues and as a security person, I see the concern. This takes all of these issues to another level," he said.
Morrison said he's concerned about a false sense of security a system like that could bring to a school fearing a lawsuit over a situation that could develop when a child was in their care.
The use of a Raptor system isn't a state law for public schools. That is yet.
Parents and school officials can't be led to believe such a system would keep criminals from the children. Files contain false information, inaccurate records and data collection errors. Criminals know how to get around systems like Raptors'.
But that's not the only problem with it, Morrison said.
"Some of the companies sell their software dirt cheap to gather demographics to sell to clients - that's how they really make the big money," Morrison said. He compared the likely data collection to what Dominick's and Jewel-Osco gather when purchases are made with their store discount cards.
And then there's the collection of data about the non-users, he said. If a person doesn't show up in a school's visitor management system, that says something about the person, too. Is he or she uncooperative and belligerent? Does she not care enough about her grandchildren to attend their school functions? Why doesn't her name come up in the school's system? Is that a of cause for alarm or admittance of a problem?
Not finding a name on a system may say even more than the list of those that cooperated with the school's security demands. You know, those problem people - the rebels, the free thinkers, the Libertarians - that still believe they are innocent until proven guilty.
That's the list where you'll find me in Raptor Technology's files - under "G-Ma." I'll explain it to our beloved grandkids when they're just a little older.
Fran Eaton is the editor of Illinois Review and proud grandmother to nine precious ones to whom she's desperately fighting to pass along a free America.
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