Schools getting new security measures

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Cookeville, T.N., Aug 10, 2019 (Herald Citizen) – School resource officers will be patrolling the halls of all Putnam County schools this year, and a more intensive screening of school visitors is in the works.

The school board this month approved a $27,642 contract for the Ident-A-Kid Visitor Management System, which will replace the practice of manually signing in visitors to the schools.

“We looked at three different vendors and Ident-A-Kid was the one that everyone preferred,” said Deputy Director of Schools Corby King, adding that he hopes to have the new system in place by Labor Day.

King said visitors will still have to show a photo ID at the school’s front door in order to gain access. From there, they will go to the office to complete the process.

“When you go in, the system scans your ID, checks it against the sex offender registry, and then takes a picture of you and prints it on the visitor label,” he said. “It uses the name from your driver’s license, but it takes a current picture.”

He said the system also allows more detailed information to be kept about visitors.

“You can import what they call a no-go list, so if parents have some type of order of protection against another parent or someone else — and this happens a lot —then you enter that information or update it in the system,” he said.

Funding for the new system comes from recurring money allocated by the state of Tennessee after the completion earlier this year of the first-ever statewide assessment of school facilities and safety procedures.

Putnam County also received a one-time allocation of $260,000 to address security issues identified in the individual school site surveys.

King said $109,000 of that allocation was used to update cameras and video surveillance systems, and $76,000 was put toward a program that provides digitized maps of school floor plans to emergency responders.

Another $60,000 was budgeted for the purchase of bollards — concrete barriers that are installed to prevent vehicles from driving into school buildings.

“A lot of schools have those scheduled to be installed over fall break,” King said. “We weren’t the only school system doing this, so some of the local companies were kind of overwhelmed, I think, with some of the requests.”

King said the barrier type may vary.

“The principals and SROs are working together to determine what they want,” he said. “Some are getting the sphere bollards, some are getting post bollards, and some are getting big concrete planters. They all serve a similar purpose.”

In addition, King said the school system has adopted a new tip line for students and parents to report suspicious activity.

“Last year, the tip line that we had was Safe Schools Alert, and we just really weren’t happy with that product,” King said. “It seemed a little bit clunky, so people just didn’t use it that much.”

This year, the schools are using a different vendor called Stopit Solutions.

“Several districts in Tennessee are using it. White County, Jackson County, Warren County and Rutherford County, have gone to Stopit,” he said.

He said the system uses a smartphone app or a website.

“You can click the app and submit a report that goes straight to the school administration, whether it be bullying, harassment or whatever,” he said. 

King said serious threats are also relayed to 911 and law enforcement.

“We always emphasize ‘if you see something, say something,’ ” he said.

Additional security improvements will be included in the application for this year’s round of state security grants, which is due by Sept. 20 and will be based on updated site surveys being conducted this month.

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