ARLINGTON -- Visitors to school district campuses might soon have to submit their driver's licenses for background checks and for making photo ID badges to wear during their stays.
The district is looking at several options that would improve and standardize security measures at each campus, but also protect against mishandling of private information and avoid excluding parents who may not have documentation of legal U.S. residency.
"We want to make it convenient for parents to come in and visit with their kids," said board President Peter Baron. "We don't want to keep our parents from coming in just because they're afraid of a new electronic system."
The $197.5 million bond election of 2009 provided funds for a visitor entry system based on an estimate of about $145,000.
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At a special meeting Thursday, the school board asked the staff to request proposals from vendors.
Consistency is one of the goals of a new visitation program. District policy requires visitors to check in at the principal's office and wear an identification badge or sticker, but it leaves the details up to the principals.
"Right now each campus has a different kind of badge," said Trustee Gloria Pena.
The core system the board is considering would scan driver's licenses and use the information and photos to make temporary passes that visitors would carry with them during their stays on campus.
"It also runs a check on them to make sure they're not predators or have a restraining order against them or anything that would prevent them from being in school," said board Vice President Bowie Hogg.
Trustees also want to make sure that private information taken for the passes and background check doesn't end up involved in identity theft.
Other area districts, such as Mansfield, Irving and Plano, have similar scanning systems. Hogg got to audition Mansfield's two years ago when he checked in at Timberview High School to give a speech.
"In 30 seconds to a minute, it printed up my visitor ID and ran a check on me," Hogg said. "It was really fast."
Hogg said he wouldn't recommend using such a system for screening at a sporting event because those generally are separate from a school building's daily operations.
"But if somebody is going to be walking around in our schools, we need to have a system in place that ensures the safety of our students," he said.
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641