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More schools utilizing ID cards

by Nora Edinger

REGIONAL EDITOR

It takes more than a youthful face and backpack to convince Jay Dailer you belong in his school.

Dailer, dean of students at Elkins High School, is among a growing number of administrators on the alert for individuals missing the clip-on or neck-lanyard photo identification tags many area students and educators are required to wear.

"Our staff can identify the kids and our kids can identify which adults should be there, too," Dailer said of the second-year program. "It's just an early warning system."

While the Elkins program has seen legal controversy surrounding a teacher who claimed optional bar codes on the cards were a precursor to the biblical Mark of the Beast, Dailer said it has had a positive impact overall, especially on security.

"(Before the ID program) we had a boy who had a bookbag and looked like a student," Dailer said. The "student" was actually a thief. "Come third period, he was going through lockers and walking out of here every day with a bookbag full of goods."

In another case, Dailer said a young non-student entered through a back door -- a door that is now locked from the inside under new security measures -- and proceeded to the cafeteria, where he had a verbal exchange with an estranged girlfriend and started a fight with another student.

"In West Virginia, people think everybody knows everybody," Dailer said. "Lately, that feeling has slipped a little."

He sees ID use growing as a result.

Don Dolan, vice principal of Buckhannon-Upshur High School, agrees. With an enrollment of 1,250, B-UHS uses cards for student and staff security and lunch purchasing. The cards are numbered instead of bar-coded to avoid controversy.

In its pilot year, the program has had a few rough spots, however: Dolan said about 19 percent of disciplinary action this year has concerned non-display of ID. He suspects that figure will decrease as students become accustomed to the idea.

That has proven true for the Taylor County school system, which is in its third year of ID use. That school system requires IDs at all of its larger schools, including one elementary school in which teachers store IDs in baskets and pass them out only for students to use in the lunch line, said Linda Findley, Taylor County child nutrition coordinator.

Findley said the ease of bar-coded purchasing is the drive behind the program there, but new software is allowing new uses, such as printing out a classroom roster with photos for teachers.

"This year has been a learning year," Findley said. "We're finding out what we can do with the software.

That can be quite a lot, said Chris Friday, a sales representative of Automated Card Systems in Pittsburgh, a regional supplier of card-making equipment and data-management software.

Friday, who saw a marked increase in regional contacts and sales following the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colo., said urban clients are using bar-coded IDs for everything from library checkouts to key replacement.

"When the bell rings, the doors are locked," he said of card-based security systems. Tardy students must swipe their card through a sensor located at a single door that forces them past an office upon entry. Swipe locks are also used to regulate student access to areas such as computer labs.

Other high-tech measures include teachers taking attendance by having students swipe cards through a machine on their desks or bus drivers printing out a photo passenger roster during a field trip, Friday said.

Such possibilities have caught the attention of administrators like David Book, principal of Liberty High School. While Harrison County students are not required to display IDs, they receive them each year through a free promotional program the school's yearbook vendor offers. He believes displayed IDs will be the norm in the future.

He has noticed that LHS students who also attend Harrison County's vocational United Technical Center, seem pleased to wear the ID badges required there while at LHS. "Its kind of a badge of honor."

Richard Messenger, Lewis County High School principal, said the situation there is similar. In its first year of ID use, the school does not require display, although the cards are used for library checkouts and are intended to be used in the cafeteria next year.

Other more rural school districts are reluctant to issue ID cards, stating their smaller enrollments allow face-to-face identification.

"We hope it doesn't become an issue," said Jeff Moss, Doddridge County superintendent of schools. With its largest facility, Doddridge County High School, enrolling fewer than 500 students, Moss said it would be fairly easy to identify a stranger in the building.

Glenn Sweet, associate principal at Philip Barbour High School in Barbour County, agreed with Moss that smaller schools make identification easier. But, he foresees a day when security needs could bring ID cards to all schools.

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