The Alabama Bureau of Investigation reports there are more than 11,000 registered sex offenders living in this state. Someone convicted of a sexual offense on a child under the age of 12 cannot be within 500 feet of a school or child-care facility.
Are you confident administrators at your child's school would be able to recognize a sex offender? Tuscaloosa City Schools have come up with policy to do just that.
Tuscaloosa city schools rolled out a new visitor policy today. This new technology, which includes a data base, is designed to stop a sex offender from getting past the front office.
"I used to ride my bike to school two miles away from my house. But now you hear about abductions and kids being taken away so much more," said Julie Claytor, a parent of four.
Claytor says times have changed since she was child. Now that she is a parent, she wants to make sure her four children are protected; even when she's not around. "You think when you send your kids to school they're going to be safe. Obviously that's not the case all the time," said Claytor.
The Tuscaloosa City School System has made that its goal with a new visitor policy. As of today, at all 24 city schools, anyone who walks through the front door must have a government-issued id in hand.
It's called the Raptor system, software that instantly screens out registered sex offenders.
Anne Gray, the school secretary at Rock Quarry Elementary is undergoing training on the new system.Sam Olivares is a Raptor tech support specialist. He says the primary goal is keeping children safe. "Once they're in this building they're ours. Those kids are ours and we want to keep them safe from predators or anyone that would try to take them," said Olivares.
Here's how the system works: "When they come to the front counter they do have to provide that drivers license to the front receptionist. And once that receptionists grabs that drivers license they're going to scan it through our system. Once it's scanned it doing that search to see if a person is a registered sex offender. So once that's scanned they get a visitors badge and that person is free to go to the cafeteria of visit there child."
And if a person does come up as a registered sex offender, principal Laura Jockishch says a plan is in place. "There are officers available to us at elementary schools and middle schools that we can contact. After we do a check and we are absolutely one-hundred percent sure that they are an offender then yes they would be asked to leave immediately," said Jockishch.
There is also a data base in the system for custody and restraining orders. "You do have to have a documentation. They're not going to just do it verbally," said Olivares.
As with anything new, principal Jockishch expects the process to take little extra time in the beginning. But she assures parents it's for the greater good. "Certainly this is not something that we in any shape form or fashion want parents to feel like they are not welcome here so I hope that will not be a stumbling block for us. We are trying to communicate to everyone that this is a step we're doing to protect the children," said Jockishch.
The system does not do a complete criminal background check. Raptor does make software that can do that. But Tuscaloosa schools will only check for sex offenders.