Rock Hill school visitor policy increases security measures

by: Greg Suskin Updated:

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ROCK HILL, S.C. - People who want to visit a Rock Hill school during the school day will have to hand over a driver’s license and submit to a background check.

However, now schools are looking at tightening security even further.

School officials told Channel 9 they are constantly working to improve security and safety at schools.

The school districts are now reviewing their policies on cameras at school and sign-in procedures.

“That’s what we hear from parents, is safety. The safety of the schools is always first with them,” said Associate Superintendent Tony Cox.

Several Rock Hill schools are taking part in a pilot program that upgrades the current visitor check-in system.

The upgrade expands the databases that get information when a visitor steps inside a school, and has his or her I.D. scanned at the front desk.

When Eyewitness News went to Sullivan Middle School on Monday, our driver’s licenses were taken and run through a computer, before a visitor pass was printed.

That system has been in place for three years.

However, what is new at a few schools, is where the computer gets information from Rock Hill schools are exploring using larger, national databases to check the criminal record and sex offender status of visitors.

For security reasons, school officials were not specific on which databases are being used.

“We want to make sure our students have the safest conditions possible to learn in,” Cox said.

Mary Stefano is a retired teacher who taught at several grade levels in Rock Hill.

She said this is an important step.

“With what goes on in the nation now, I don’t think anyone has a right to be on our campus that is not willing to identify themselves,” she said.

Schools already do limit background checks and check an I.D. against the sex offender registry when a visitor enters a school.

However, the pilot program will simply expand that effort, giving schools more information about who is on campus, and any potential risk to safety.

Parents said the safety of their children at school is a critical issue.

“They should know who is coming in and out of the schools. If you’re good you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. If you’re bad, and you’ve done something in your past, then you should expect it,” said Jimmie Hooper.

School leaders are also addressing the issue of what happens when someone visits a school campus without an I.D.

The new policy would leave the decision up to the principal, and could allow people to be on campus without background checks, so long as they are accompanied by an escort during their visit.

Cox said the pilot program is just one small part of a security review at Rock Hill schools that is constant and changing.