Santa Monica and Malibu schools may soon be equipped with security cameras and ID verification systems for campus visitors.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education is looking to add security cameras around the perimeters of school campuses and require all campus visitors to check in through an ID verification system that runs their identity through criminal databases. The measures are intended to the district’s schools more secure against crime and other scenarios, such as active shooter situations.

School board members said at a meeting Thursday that the new security measures would make students safer but acknowledged the privacy and school culture concerns inherent in the technology. They said there should be an opportunity for students and parents to give input and to address those concerns.

Many board members also said they think the measures would improve school safety without making campuses feel too militarized.

“I don’t believe it’s possible to secure our campuses 100 percent, and I think the steps to do that would be so onerous as to seriously harm the educational effort,” said board member Craig Foster. “I think perimeter security is the smartest and best thing we can do because our goal is to keep anyone off campus who doesn’t belong and be as much as possible fully permeable to people with reasons to be on campus.”

The cameras would be installed by main entrances and offices, pedestrians gates and building entrances and exits. They are meant to identify perpetrators of illegal or unauthorized activity and to identify visitors where remote authorized entry is required, such as at SMASH where the main entrance is located away from the main office.

Footage from the cameras would not be regularly monitored but would be retained for an unspecified period of time to identify events. There would be some real-time viewing available on selected devices, however.

The camera system would cost about $1.2 million and be funded by two bonds.

“Any time you go into a court, or somewhere where we think people are important, you go through these checks and cameras. Our students are the most important people out there and there is nowhere secure on campus unless you have these measures in place,” said Superintendent Ben Drati. “Cameras multiply our eyes. We’re not funded to have enough security guards to cover every corner.”

The ID system would check visitors against various watch lists, such as Megan’s List, a sex offender database, and record who visitors are and where they are going. It would then print a photo ID badge for the visitor.

“Right now, if you go to a school, you see a notebook with a piece of paper and you sign your name in and where you’re going,” said chief operating officer Carey Upton. “It’s not the most secure system.”

The district would issue an internal ID to people without a government-issued ID. Upton said if the visitor is a parent, school staff could confirm their identity. In other cases, or if a visitor is flagged on a watch list, the school may send someone to accompany the visitor as they move through the school, he said.

District staff is recommending purchasing the Raptor System for each campus, which has been successfully used at Lincoln Middle School since the school year started. The district also piloted a different ID check system at Santa Monica High School that has experienced technical problems.

Staff recommends purchasing the Raptor System, which would cost $50,000 to install districtwide and $7,500 per year to license.

Upton said staff will return to the school board next months with two more safety measures: electronic locks that would lock down a campus instantly during an active shooter situation and a modernized public announcement system.

madeleine@smdp.com

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