2012 and 2013 saw a growing trend of schools throughout the United States adopting “flash” background checks, quick screening systems that utilize specialized software to instantaneously check all school visitors. From the looks of things, that trend will continue in 2014, as two Wisconsin school districts have become the latest educational institutions in the country to add visitor background checks to their policy books.
The schools, which include the entire Wauwatosa School District and the Oconomowoc High School – both near Milwaukee – decided to add visitor background screenings that primarily focus on flagging convicted sex offenders before they are allowed to proceed into a school building. According to the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, a newspaper that monitors stories in the area, Oconomowoc High School is serving as testing ground for the new software. If the school is pleased with the results of implanting the software and feels that the checks are playing a role in keeping students safe, then the wider Oconomowoc school district will require the visitor screening process across the board. The new background check software made its debut at the high school with the start of the winter 2014 semester.
The Wauwatosa School District, on the other hand, is diving right into the thick of things with the new background check requirements. The district will not be able to have “flash” visitor background checks up and running at all schools this school year, but officials with the district expect that the screening processes will be operational across the board come the 2014-15 school year.
Like many other “flash” background check systems, the new software being implemented at Oconomowoc High School and throughout the Wauwatosa School District will work by scanning a visitor’s driver’s license or ID card and searching for that person’s information on a number of different databases. The fixed database check will search for sex offender records, while the second one will be a bit more customizable, allowing administrators to look for anything from criminal activity to custody records.
All visitors – parents included – will be required to submit to the checks. Once they have been cleared for visitation, visitors are granted an authorization badge including their name and photo. The badges will also include the date of visitation, the time of arrival, and the visitor’s stated “destination” in the school – all to ensure that no one ends up somewhere they shouldn’t be when they aren’t permitted to be there.
Visitor background checks have become increasingly common at schools since the Sandy Hook tragedy that took place in December 2012. The efforts of these two Wisconsin schools to step up their security are admirable. However, simply checking for sex offenders and letting other criminal offenses slide would be a bad move for any district. The Wauwatosa School District and Oconomowoc High School would be wise to take advantage of their software’s second database search to do a comprehensive nationwide criminal search. Backgroundchecks.com has services of its own that can run this type of search rapidly and inexpensively. For example, US OneSEARCH peruses nearly half a billion criminal records from all states and territory of the USA, and does so instantaneously. OneSEARCH also scans sex offender registry records from all 50 states.