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OFFENDER SCREENINGS BEGIN AT 2 CHANDLER SCHOOLS

Ray Parker / The Arizona Republic / Chandler, AZ - 5/1/2008

Visitors to Hancock Elementary and Willis Junior High schools now must present a driver's license or other photo ID when entering the schools as officials start a pilot program intended to flag sex offenders.

Called Raptor, the Web-based computer system scans the ID, then sends its information to the Houston-based company, which checks the name against national sex offender databases, and then if the information comes back clear prints out a visitor's badge with picture.

All within seconds.

"The pilot just started," said Regina Wainwright, who helps oversee school safety in the Chandler Unified School District. "We'll review the information and decide if more schools will have it next (school) year."

A $1,200 federal grant provided the start-up equipment and licensing fees, which cost about $400 per school annually.

Wainwright recently visited Marana Middle School north of Tucson to see how officials are using the system there. Raptor also is installed in three other Arizona schools in Tucson, Apache Junction and Rough Rock, a Navajo reservation northeast of Flagstaff.

Raptor Technologies was founded in November 2002 and installed its first school screening product in 2003. The company says it now monitors nearly 4,000 installations in 530 school districts across the country.

Letters were sent last month to Chandler parents at the two CUSD schools notifying them of the test of the new system.

"When visitors, volunteers or contractors check in at the front office, they will be asked to present a valid state issued identification, military ID or consulate card to be entered into the monitoring system," the April 17 letter reads.

Visitors only need to have their license scanned once, and when they return the computer will have their information stored.

"If they are flagged (as a sex offender), the system will call up their driver's license photo and the one from the database," Wainwright said. "They won't be allowed on campus and the district office will be notified."

District officials said that, at least during the test, parents won't be prevented from visiting if they don't have a picture ID. Instead, staff will enter the visitor's information - name, address and birthdate - manually into the system.

Before the pilot, visitors could simply just sign their name into a log without showing ID or giving additional information.

Hancock and Willis administrators will evaluate the system at the end of the year, determining how effective it is and the best procedures for using it.

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