Lafayette Parish schools beef up security

With a swipe of a driver’s license or photo ID, Edgar Martin Middle School ensures sex offenders don’t step onto its campus.

“That’s the main one you want to keep off our campus and by law, they’re not supposed to be here,” Principal Bobby Badeaux said.

The school began using the visitor management software from Raptor Technologies about two years ago as a proactive measure, Badeaux said.

Office staff slide a visitor’s ID through a small scanner system connected to a nearby computer. The person’s information is run through a database of sex offenders in 50 states. If the visitor is on any sex offender registry, a text alert will be sent to Badeaux, his assistant principal and the school’s resource officer, a Lafayette police officer.

So far, the only alerts have been a few “false alerts” of visitors with the same name as an offender, Badeaux said.

All visitors — whether on campus temporarily to check out a student from school, an outside work contractor or volunteer — are checked through the visitor software system, Badeaux said.

The scanner also prints a visitor pass with a copy of the person’s identification photo.

Edgar Martin is the only public school in Lafayette Parish using the Raptor software, but three schools in the Diocese of Lafayette have it, said Jim Vesterman, CEO of Raptor Technologies.

All Lafayette Parish elementary schools have a similar visitor management system by another company that also scans sex offender registries, called BadgePass Inc., that will soon be activated, said Mona Bernard, the district’s director of risk management.

Bernard said the district plans to purchase the ID systems for middle and high schools as funding becomes available, but they were first purchased for the district’s “most vulnerable” schools.

Vesterman said the Raptor system is used in 8,000 schools across the country.

“In the past decade, we’ve flagged over 10,000 registered sex offenders attempting to enter our clients’ schools,” Vesterman said.

The software also notifies school personnel if an unauthorized family member of a student attempts to check out a student and logs volunteer visits and other information, Vesterman said.

The safety feature is one added measure Edgar Martin has taken to improve campus security. The school recently added 25 new security cameras.

Both the sex offender identification check system and the cameras were purchased by the school’s Parent Teacher Organization.

The PTO works helps to fill identified needs and previously organized fundraisers for classroom technology purchases, said Christi Babin, the group’s president.

“We still feel that Edgar Martin is one of the safer schools in Lafayette Parish. We haven’t had any major issues,” Babin said. “We wanted to be proactive. We wanted to protect our faculty, our students and all our assets we invested in.”

The school was built in the 1960s and has no centralized entry. It has several classroom buildings and even its administrative offices are in a separate building.

Badeaux said his new project will be to erect a wrought iron gated entry for more added security.

“I like to be proactive,” he said. “You just never know today. You have to do all you can today to ensure the safety and security of these children. We’re trying to stay ahead of the game.”

Edgar Martin is ahead of other middle schools — and most high schools — relative to its number of security cameras, however, this summer, the district plans to install at least 10 new cameras at each middle school, said LaShona Dickerson, the district’s director of instructional technology.

“Edgar Martin has had opportunity to do things with technology that other schools have not been able to because they have a strong parent support,” Dickerson said.

Northside High received 69 new security cameras as part of its renovations and Acadiana High, through a partnership with Scott police, has cameras with feeds accessible by police, Dickerson said.

The district recently issued a request for proposals for security cameras — at least 90 — that could be installed prior to the start of the new school year in August, Dickerson said.