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Back to School 2021: Gwinnett County Public Schools continues focus on safety and communication

July 19, 2021

     School safety and communication with parents continue to be a priority in Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS). “As a school district, we have a responsibility to ensure that our schools are safe and secure for our students, staff, and visitors,” says Dr. Al Taylor, GCPS associate superintendent for School Improvement and Operations. “New safety initiatives this year include a new tool (Raptor) to strengthen our visitor management process and the expansion of surveillance cameras in our high school stadiums. In addition, we continue with many tried and true strategies, including the district’s School Resource Officer program which includes 92 certified, sworn law enforcement officers who provide on-site support for our students, staff, and community. We believe that a balanced combination of proactive and responsive safety measures such as these help us stay focused on our core business, teaching and learning.”

     What do parents and students need to know about these areas as the 2021-22 school year begins?

  • Gwinnett County Public Schools’ visitor management process will be strengthened this year as the district rolls out a new tool to promote safety in our schools. GCPS schools will begin using a new tool called Raptor that enables each school building to screen all adult visitors against the National Sex Offender Registry and establishes a consistent sign-in process across the district. Starting the week of August 16, the Raptor Visitor Management System will go online at GCPS high schools. Elementary schools will begin using it the first week of September and it will launch in middle schools during the third week of September.

 

What happens when an adult visitor visits a GCPS school?

     During school hours, the entrance for visitors is restricted to designated doors near the office, which are locked until the visitor is granted access. To notify school staff of their arrival, visitors push the bell button on the visitor management panel found outside the main entrance door. Once “buzzed in,” visitors proceed directly to the front desk in the lobby to check-in.

     At that time, adult visitors entering the building for the first time this year will go through the new check-in process. Office personnel will check a visitor’s driver’s license or other state-issued ID, comparing information to a national sex offender database, alerting school administrators if a match is found, or issuing a detailed visitor badge if the person is cleared.

     Upon entering a district building, visitors will be asked to present an ID such as a Driver’s License, which can either be scanned or manually entered into the system. If a parent or guardian does not have a US government-issued ID, the school staff member can use any form of identification and manually enter the person’s name into the system. The system will check to see if the visitor’s name and date of birth is on a national database of registered sex offenders. The registered sex offender database is the only official database checked by the Raptor system. 

     Once entry is approved, the visitor will receive a badge that identifies the visitor, the date, and the purpose of his/her visit. (A visitor’s badge will not be necessary for those who visit our schools simply to drop off an item in the office or pick up paperwork.) 

  • This year GCPS will employ 92 School Resource Officers (SROs). These experienced and highly trained police officers are housed in schools— two SROs at every high school, one SRO at every middle school, and several are located at elementary schools. Officers serve their home school as well as other school facilities in the cluster. In addition to policing campuses, SROs focus on educating students and staff on safety issues and working with school administrators on school safety plans.
  • Confidential Tip Line—770-822-6513—allows those reporting information to text information regarding school safety. If you think that someone is carrying a weapon, drugs, or alcohol on school property, or if you believe that you have been the target of violence or threat of violence, or have witnessed violent or threatening conduct by another person, please call or text the tip line. You do not have to provide your name when reporting.
  • School and district leaders have reviewed each building’s Emergency Management Plan, making modifications as needed. Approved by the Gwinnett County Office of Emergency Management, these plans are the guides to help staff and our public safety partners respond swiftly should a crisis occur. Reunification plans ensure that, in the event of an emergency, students can be evacuated to a safe place where they can reunite with their families.
  • GCPS enters year five of using SchoolMessenger to notify parents of emergencies, school closings, and other school information.
  • Parents are encouraged to verify the accuracy of their contact information at the beginning of the school year as this information is used by GCPS to send emergency and non-emergency notifications by phone, email, and text using SchoolMessenger.
  • If a parent has not subscribed to receive text messages they can do so by texting the word “SUBSCRIBE” to the number 67587. (NOTE: If one subscribed to receive text messages last year, there is no need to re-subscribe.)
  • Messages from Gwinnett County Public Schools will come from the number 1-844-248-6644. Parents can add this phone number to their contacts to easily identify the call as coming from Gwinnett County Public Schools. If a call comes in and is missed by a parent, they can call this number back to retrieve and replay phone notifications.