Adding an extra layer of security at Robbinsdale Schools

New check-in system requires visitors to scan IDs for building access

By Brian Rosemeyer
Sun Sailor Newspapers

Robbinsdale School District implemented a new check-in system Feb. 4 in an effort to further ensure security and provide parents peace of mind.
The new system requires visitors to swipe their identification, most likely a driver’s license, to verify that an accurate name is given and that the person has an appropriate reason to be in one of the district’s 14 schools.
Previously, a visitor was required to print and sign his or her name on a logbook at the front office. The visitor would then receive a name badge or sticker acknowledging the validity of the visit.
Now, a card reader pulls a visitor’s first and last name from an ID, matches the name to a driver’s license number and prints a badge with the time, date and location of the visit.
Brian Koch, Safety and Security Director at Robbinsdale Area School, said the district had been actively exploring and demoing verification systems for the past year and resolved to purchase and install Protect software from Red Wing-based Identification Verification Systems.
“We tried this system at our district offices for about a year to make sure that it wasn’t going to be a problem,” Koch said. “And also to make sure that people’s reactions were positive and that it was going to be accepted. We didn’t want anyone to get mad at us.”
He noted that the system was fully implemented on Feb. 4, and the feedback from district parents and visitors has been positive.
After a driver’s license is scanned, a visitor’s name appears in a check-in window within the software. A list of all visitors, the times they checked in and the location they intend to visit is readily available to reception staff.
When a visitor exits the building, the school asks that they stop back at the office and check out of the system.
“This is just another layer of security,” said Koch. “This system allows us to verify visitors’ identification and evaluate if they’re going to be a threat or if they have a legitimate reason to be in the school.”
Koch said some parents in the district have trespass notices issued against them or court orders arising from family situations that the district must honor. With the new system, a parent with a restraining order can no longer provide a false name to gain access to a Robbinsdale schools.
Reception staff can create an alert and attach it to a person’s name if needed. If someone who is not supposed to be on school property attempts to scan their ID into the system, it will notify staff and the issue can be resolved accordingly.
“Parents have to feel confident,” Koch said. “A school that a parent’s son or daughter attends needs to be safe. They have to know that their child is going to be taken care of.”
Koch also noted that privacy of visitors’ information was a factor when deciding to utilize verification software.
John McCullough, executive vice president of Identification Verification Systems, worked closely with Koch to design and tailor the software to the district’s requests.
McCullough is a graduate of Armstrong High School in Plymouth, and said he took the security of Robbinsdale Schools seriously on a personal level while developing the software. He also said that privacy was an issue and that Robbinsdale’s software protects the limited amount of information pulled from visitor’s identification.
“We only take the first name last name and make sure the ID is valid,” McCullough said. “Dates of birth aren’t displayed. Anybody sitting at the desk is not going to get a lot of information.”
Koch added that the district’s database of visitor information will be purged on a regular basis, most likely weekly; deleting all names and time records of visitors. Koch is also the only person with access to the district-wide database of names.
“It doesn’t pull all the information off the licenses, it’s only meant to match your drivers license number with your name,” Koch said. “It’s not looking at the rest of it or saving anything. There’s not a lot of privacy concern, and I don’t think there should be.”
The system is not tied to any information system other than Robbinsdale’s internal check-in software.
Koch said he chose the system to balance security and accessibility of schools. He didn’t want a school to “feel like a prison.” Rather, for it to remain open and fun with an appropriate level of protection.
“This provides protection that the schools don’t currently have,” McCullough said. “We don’t change any of the schools’ existing policies or procedures, we just give them the tools to be able to validate who is in their buildings.”
Koch said the system didn’t represent a large budget impact on the district. The hardware for the system, card readers and label printers, totaled roughly $600 per school and software maintenance is projected to cost around $300 a year.
Koch and McCullough both expect that this type of system will be commonplace in public schools in the coming years as school security continues to be a passionate subject for parents.
McCullough said a number of area districts are exploring the software he helped design with Robbinsdale, and police departments are beginning to utilize a similar version for their verification purposes.
“Now other schools are very interested in the same product because of the school-specific features,” he said. “We’re doing this, partially, to just basically help the schools out. I really have a big interest in the community, and I want to make sure the kids are safe with this software system.”
Robbinsdale School District has 10 elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools and a district office. Koch said elementary schools receive about 25 visitors a day and high schools have received up to 150 visitors a day.
With all the coming and going, Koch stressed the importance of ensuring that school security is maintained throughout the district.
“Any incident that we can avoid, or any sort of confusion or mistaken identity will pay for itself,” Koch said. “We don’t need for there to be anybody hurt. You can’t put a price on that. That is invaluable.”

Contact Brian Rosemeyer at brian.rosemeyer@ecm-inc.com.

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