Lawrence school board to consider buying software to check building visitors’ backgrounds

photo by: Mackenzie Clark/Journal-World File Photo

The Lawrence Board of Education meeting room at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive, is pictured in this file photo from Feb. 25, 2019.

The Lawrence school board will consider purchasing new technology that provides background checks on people who enter its school buildings.

During its meeting Monday, the board will consider purchasing visitor management software and related accessories from Hall Pass School Visitor Management for $69,000.

School district staff suggested the purchase to help schools track and monitor visitors to their buildings. The board originally considered purchasing the software during its Oct. 14 meeting but held off because of unanswered questions.

The board members said they wanted to make sure what history the program searches, such as if it’s a visitor’s criminal history or whether someone is on a sex offender registry.

Board member Jessica Beeson said she specifically wanted to know what information was being searched, fearing that it may bar parents from visiting their child’s school if they have an unsavory past. She also mentioned some people who are victims of abuse — such as victims of sex trafficking — will take a fall for their abuser, and that could be on their criminal history.

“I’m struggling with this being a necessary thing that we have in our buildings,” she said.

Other board members said they understood Beeson’s concerns and asked staff to look deeper into the program before they consider approving the purchase.

Ron May, director of facilities and operations, told the board he would do more research on the program and bring it back to the board for consideration. He noted the purchase would be paid through a grant the school district received and it has until June to make a purchase with that funding.

In other business, the board will receive an update from the Lawrence Schools Foundation. Dena Johnston, executive director of the foundation, is expected to share how the foundation has been benefiting the school district and how it can align its goals with the district’s goals.

Prior to its regular meeting, the board will meet for a work session to discuss data on attendance and discipline.

The board meets at 5 p.m. at the school district’s administrative offices, 110 McDonald Drive. Full agendas can be found on the district’s website, usd497.org.


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