When I am talking to small schools about SafeVisitor and visitor management in general, I will hear comments like:
“I don’t think we really need something like this.”
“Mary works the front desk and she’s lived here all her life.”
“She knows everybody!”
Coming from a large family in a small community, I completely understand that mindset. In a small community, it can seem that everyone knows what’s going on with everyone else . . . or at least they think they do. While I am sympathetic to this point of view, something happened a year and a half ago that caused me to see things differently.
One day we received a frantic call from one of our clients. They had a hit on the National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) for a temporary visitor. “John Doe” had come to school with his wife to have lunch with his stepson. When the possible hit came up on the screen, the picture shown was tagged with a completely different name then the one they’d been given. The secretary was certain that the picture was of the person standing in front of her although the individual appeared to be several years older than the registry picture.
The name on the possible NSOR hit came up as “Tom Buck” (not the actual name). They questioned the guy who agreed there was a resemblance, but maintained it wasn’t him. His wife agreed saying, “His name is John, not Tom”. Apparently not wanting to make a fuss, John said it was ok and they left. His unusual lack of concern alerted the staff to a possible problem, so once they left, I was on the phone again with the staff trying to determine exactly what was going on. It was an interesting story . . .
In SafeVisitor, when a possible hit comes up there is the ability to click on the person and go directly to the NSOR page to get additional information. Initially, there was confusion because while the names didn’t match, the picture was undeniably similar to the man who’d just left. A quick click on the picture and everything was revealed. “John Doe” was an alias of “Tom Buck”. “Tom” had been convicted on multiple charges of violent sexual assault in another state 19 years earlier. Somehow, he was able to get a driver's license under his alias in a neighboring state where he had been living for several years while never registering as a sex offender. Even his wife had no idea about his previous life!
The police were notified, but I have no idea what the final outcome was in this case. I do know SafeVisitor enabled the school to avert the presence of a dangerous individual. When the wife was alerted to her husband’s dangerous history, she too, was able to take steps to protect her family.
This experience was an eye-opener for me, and I now use it as an example whenever I conduct user training. It’s a real-life reminder that you don’t always know who is living in your community or what their past may have been. You can never be too careful when it comes to knowing who is around you, your family, your co-workers, or
your students. With the National Sex Offender Registry and an internal Exclusion List option SafeVisitor can do quite a bit to help ensure that you are aware of who is visiting your school or business. In this instance, social familiarity would have allowed a sex offender to have repeated access to children and no one would have ever been the wiser until something bad happened. When it comes to safety, a proactive plan is always better than a reactive one.
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