Pedophiles In Schools: Part 2 - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Pedophiles In Schools: Part 2

Six-hundred-forty students go to Ponderosa Elementary School, part of Spring ISD in northwest Houston. With more than 400 visitors a month, some of them with a criminal past, it's important the school knows exactly who's around their children and who should not be.

"I think, as parents, we're all more comfortable, knowing that there are not people in the school who we need to worry about," Kathy Geisendorff, the mother of a 3rd grade student, said.

Especially when someone, like Jason Paul Tocabens enters the building. The father of a student at Ponderosa, he's convicted of exposing himself to a child. The school knows that because he was detected by a tracking system installed two years ago, called V-soft.

With the computer system, every visitor must scan a state-issued I.D. card, like a drivers license. If that person is a registered sex offender, the school principal is alerted immediately.

"We escort them throughout the building so that they're never left alone," Barbara Leland, the school principal, said.

We talked to four mothers who remember the days before V-soft -- how easy it was for anyone to come onto campus and roam the halls.

"You could write down any name. You could write it in script and not print it," Mickie Steele, the mother of a 4th grader, said.

"Before, the name tag would just say 'visitor' on it," Patty Hawkins, the school's receptionist, said. "Now, when they get a name tag, it has their name, it has their picture, it has where they're going -- somewhere in the building."

Another safety measure with V-soft: You cannot re-use the name tag.

"Before you leave, you have to turn it back in, because then they clock you out," Tomeka Spencer, the mother of a 4th grader, said. "So if you come walking back in, you have to show it again."

"So the inconvenience or whatever it would be is worth the peace of mind of knowing that my kids are safe," Lynnette Craig, the mother of a 1st and 4th grader, said.

The district's police department monitors about 28,000 students on 25 campuses. Almost daily, they get alerts about sex offenders, people with restraining orders against them, or parents with limited or no custody of their children.

"All right, mine just came across," Police Chief Alan Bragg, said, responding to an audible alert on his portable computer device. "It says, 'sex offender logged.'"

Bragg gets an email with the sex offender's mugshot and personal information.

"This was one that came in this morning," Bragg said, referring to an email on his computer. "You can right-click on it and say 'view attachment.'"

The information has allowed Bragg to arrest visitors with outstanding warrants and it helps his department solve other crimes.

"So, as an example, at the end of the day, somebody comes up and says, two or three of our teachers' purses are missing. We have a list of some possible suspects," he said.

Because V-soft tracks every visitor, it also helps police during emergency situations. During a fire, for example, police can go into a school and find anyone who may still be inside.

"For what it offers, to me, the price is pretty insignificant," Bragg said.

$1500 the first year, and every year after that, $36 a month.

"So for us to have a dollar a day for us to know if we have a registered sex offender on our campus, that's pretty cheap," Bragg said.

And parents say, with V-soft, they have one less thing to worry about.

Currently, no school in East Texas uses V-soft.

Julie Tam, reporting.


Powered by Frankly