GREENSBORO, N.C. - It's a law: sex offenders aren't allowed near schools. In North Carolina, they can't live within a thousand feet or go on campus without principal approval. But 2 Wants To Know: who is checking to make sure sex offenders aren't making their way into our schools? Think it doesn't happen?
Greensboro's Joyner Elementary went from school zone to shock zone in December 2009 when a parent says she saw Jerry Dick exposing himself in his car. Detectives found the man in the car was a registered sex offender.
He didn't stay in his car. The school log shows in a year's time he signed in as a visitor 32 times. He never told administrators about his past and school leaders didn't check until the parent complained.
Guilford County Schools would not directly answer why it doesn't check visitors. But a Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school spokesperson said staff normally supervises visitors anyway. And the additional checks are too costly. According to police each check can cost up to $25.
A Raleigh company came up with a solution - the Lobby Guard computer system. The system takes a picture of the visitor. Scans their id. And then the software checks name and birthday against the sex offender registries from all 50 states. If the visitor's clean, the machine prints a name badge. If there's a problem, it spits out a void sticker -advising the visitor to "see an employee for assistance." The machine also sends a text message alerting principals and the school resource officer.
How quick does all this happen? Two to five seconds.
The machine's proven successful in other school systems. It flagged two sex offenders Mecklenburg County schools And lead to the arrest of a convicted sex offender wanted on a federal assault charge in Roanoke County. Now to the cost: a one-time fee of $4,000 bucks per school.
Friendship Christian School in Wake County uses the machine. they're hoping to off-set the cost by selling scanable key chains.
"Student safety is definitely worth any cost that we have to pay to make sure that the people who come onto our campus are people who should be on our campus and we know who they are," said Diane Braswell of Friendship Christian.
Guilford County also wanted to add the follow statement:
"Safety is the number-one priority in Guilford County Schools. We have policies in place to ensure our students and staff are safe, while welcoming our parents and community members into our schools.
Security is an ongoing conversation within the district and community. This November, Guilford County residents will have the opportunity to vote on a ¼ cent sales tax referendum, which could raise up to $14 million annually for Guilford County Schools. The Board of Education wants to spend some of those much-needed funds on upgrading security at our facilities."