BCPS to introduce new card-based security system
Wednesday, 18 June 2014 13:39

System to be implemented next school year

by Nicole Rodman

    In the wake of the Perry Hall High School shooting in August 2012, Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) superintendent Dr. S. Dallas Dance announced the creation of the BCPS Department of School Safety and Security.
    The aim of the department, according to school officials, is to promote the safety of students in schools across the county.
    To that end, the department has instituted a number of security upgrades, including the installation of networked security cameras at each of the county’s 107 elementary schools earlier this year.
    The latest phase of the plan, set to be implemented over the course of the next school year, is the “One-card” identification system.

At the heart of the system is an identification card worn by every BCPS staff member and student.
    The cards, color-coded by school, will include the wearer’s name, photo, school name, a scannable bar code and, for students, a graduation date.
    According to Dale Rauenzahn, executive director of the BCPS Department of School Safety and Security, BCPS staff and students will be able to swipe the cards at their school in order to gain access to the building.
    The cards will note when students and staff members enter the building, allowing BCPS to keep attendance records and time sheets.
    While elementary school students will only scan the cards upon arrival and dismissal, older students will be required to scan their identification cards upon arrival to each class throughout the day.
    Students and staff will also be able to check out library materials using the cards.
    Eventually, Rauenzahn noted, the cards will also be used to keep track of bus ridership.
    Each staff member and student, from kindergarten through grade 12, will  be required to wear the identification card visibly on their person at all times.
    Students who forget to bring their card to school will be required to print a temporary replacement card at a kiosk at the school.
    Students will have to pay a $5 fee to replace cards that have been lost.
    Once a student leaves or graduates from the school system, cards will be deactivated and likely collected and destroyed.
    According to school officials, the system is designed to provide greater security for all schools.
    “The One-card system is yet another step BCPS is taking to ensure the safety of all students and staff,” Dance said in a statement.
    “We now will know who belongs in our buildings,” Rauenzahn said of the system.
    The One-card system will be rolled out slowly over the course of the next school year.
    While cards were distributed to staff members earlier this month, students will not receive their cards  until school begins in the fall.
    BCPS’s Lighthouse Schools (10 elementary schools chosen to pilot the school system’s digital integration initiative) will pilot the system in the fall, allowing officials to work out how best to administer the program to the system’s youngest students.
    “We know that they’re young and there may be limitations,” Rauenzahn said, noting that the youngest students may have to keep their cards in their classrooms rather than bring them back to school each day.
    During the first semester of the 2014-2015 school year, the program will be phased in at middle and high schools across Baltimore County.
    The remaining elementary schools (minus the 10  Lighthouse Schools) will phase the system in during the second semester.
    While school officials are trumpeting the One-card system, it is not without its critics.
    According to the Dulaney High School student newspaper, The Griffin, many students are wondering “if the cost of the system outweighs any real effectiveness the system may have.”
    While the One-card system tracks students and staff, guests who need access to BCPS buildings will gain access via the “Raptor” system.
    Using Raptor, which is already in use at all schools, staff members scan a visitor’s driver’s license into the system.
    The system then searches databases such as the sex offender registry and law enforcement records to determine whether or not a visitor should be permitted into the school.
    Tom Shouldice, principal of Dundalk High School, sees the Raptor system as a benefit to the school.
    “From my perspective as a principal ... we’re happy to have that happen because we’ve had a significant number of people who have had issues living in the Dundalk area,” he explained.
    School security officials will work though the summer to ensure that the system is ready when school begins again in the fall.
    “[We’re] working very feverishly on our doors,” Rauenzahn said, noting that 40 schools still do not have the card readers necessary to use the One-card system.
    Over the summer, school security officials will also work to close off any remaining “open space” classrooms in 12 schools across the county.
    According to Rauenzahn, BCPS will “close in open space areas so that we can secure our students in a safe classroom for lockdown purposes if need be.”
    Longer term, BCPS security officials plan to upgrade the camera systems in middle and high schools, installing cameras like the ones already in place at county elementary schools.