The Española School District will have a new security system at each school site, along with a new rule: No ID, no entry.
Española School Board members unanimously approved a contract between the District and Raptor Technology, a Houston-based security company that operates visitor management systems in over 30,000 schools across the nation.
The visitor management system works by having visitors, parents and contractors scan a government-issued identification card. The person’s name, picture, date of birth and last four digits of their driver’s license number are then run against a database of people who have to register as sexual offenders.
Prior to approving the contract, Board members watched a video made by Santa Fe Public Schools, who installed Raptor’s system last year.
Explaining the ins and outs of the system, the video stated that if someone has no government-issued ID, then the situation can be handled according to the District’s security protocol.
The protocol: “They can’t get on campus,” Safety and Security Manager Donald Lopez told the Board.
“That would be your procedure. That would be your protocol,” Board Member Matthew Paña said in response. Lopez nodded in agreement.
No member of the Board or any other District official raised any concerns or attempted to clarify Lopez’ position.
In an interview after the meeting, Lopez said that any protocol concerning identification would probably have to be approved by the Board or by District Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez.
“What I think (the protocol) would be is we would not allow them, because there would be no way of vetting them,” he said of those who have no identification.
Other school districts in New Mexico have protocols for people without identification apart from forbidding them from entering campus.
At Santa Fe Public Schools, these other protocols include manually entering someone’s information, Director of School Safety Mario Salbidrez said, specifying these instances are handled on a case-by-case basis. He said these instances were more frequent when the system was first installed.
“Initially, at the roll out of this system,” he said. “Now, I rarely hear of anybody showing up without an ID.”
Lopez said in an interview he was not aware of how many people in the area have no form of identification or if that was a potential point of concern.
“I don’t know if that’s a factor or not,” he said.
While it remains unclear how many New Mexicans have no government-issued identification, around 11 percent of all American citizens have none, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, and a disproportionate number of those people without an ID are people of color and immigrants.
As of 2016, there are around 60,000 undocumented immigrants in New Mexico — around 3 percent of all people living in the state — according to the Pew Research Center. In 2014, the American Immigration Council also estimated that around 9 percent of New Mexican children live with someone who is undocumented.
Lopez wrote in an email that Raptor Technology does not check for immigration status and that the District is a safe haven for undocumented immigrants.
New Mexico is one of 13 states in the country that allow undocumented immigrants to get a state-issued ID.
Raptor’s requirement to have visitors swipe their ID has been one of the principle critiques of the program. A study on school safety technology conducted by the RAND Corporation in 2016 found the requirement was a “major limitation” in Raptor’s service, and that school districts should account for it by adequately informing the community.
Santa Fe also differs from Española in the types of checks the system runs. Lopez told the Board during a previous meeting that the system will check for warrants and court orders.
Santa Fe only runs a person’s information against the registry of those convicted of sexual offenses. Salbidrez said this is to keep his district’s environment as welcoming as possible, and that he wants parents involved in their child’s education.
“We have a large, diverse community and we don’t want our community to believe that we’re going to be checking beyond a sex offender registry,” he said. “We’re not interested in scaring the parents of our students away from the school.”
The District can also make a custom list of banned visitors that can be entered into Raptor’s system.
Lopez and Salbidrez said information obtained through a scan is kept on the company’s server and is not managed by the District.
Raptor Technology claims that their system captures around 30 people convicted of sexual offenses trying to enter school sites every day. However, it is not clear whether this figure includes false positives.
“Oh, absolutely,” Salbidrez said when asked if his district has ever had a false positive since purchasing Raptor.
He estimated there were around five false positives last school year, while one actual registered offender was caught.
While satisfied with the service, he said one of the key drawbacks to Raptor is its clearing function, which prevents false positives from happening to the same person multiple times. Even when a person is cleared at one school, the system does not clear them district-wide, putting them at risk for being flagged as an offender again.
He said when the system comes up with a match, a picture of the registered offender appears on the computer screen. At that point, the person running the system then determines whether or not there is an actual match.
The total cost for installing the visitor management system will be $38,180, nearly $3,000 per school site. Every year afterward, the District will pay a renewal fee around $17,000, Lopez said.
It is the most expensive of Raptor’s three purchasing options, and allows District officials to manage fire drills and receive coaching and training on the system.
During the Board meeting, Gutierrez acknowledged that many community members have spoken out against the District purchasing the system.
“I know people started posting, ‘Oh, we don’t need this. It’s a waste of money,’” she said. “We do need this, or something like this.”
She said on Aug. 7 that she is aware of around 20 other districts in the state that use the system and that everyone she spoke to about it was satisfied with the product.
“Kirk Carpenter, who’s the superintendent in Aztec, gave it his personal endorsement,” she said. “He’s willing to talk to anyone about it. He even said ‘I’m willing to talk to your School Board’s about it.’ He feels that strongly about it after the incident they went through.”
She was referring to a shooting at Aztec High School in 2017, which resulted in the deaths of two students.
In a phone interview, Carpenter said while he does endorse Raptor’s product, he has never worked in a school or district that has operated it, as Aztec has yet to purchase a visitor management system. His experience comes from seeing it used at the neighboring Farmington School District.
Lopez told the Board that the system will be set up in all Española schools as soon as possible.
“No one’s more anxious to get it going that I am,” he said.