In a perfect world, schools are open institutions, free for students to roam the halls and where all visitors are welcome and report to the principal's office upon arrival.
Regrettably, such a perfect world no longer exists, if it ever did. We must accept now that school security is a paramount concern.
So, we regard as timely the news that Baltimore County schools have rolled out a new identification card program for students, teachers and administrators. All must wear or carry a badge to swipe at kiosks to enter a school building and enter their classrooms.
Some schools have had a card swipe system for years, but now it will be mandatory to wear the badge throughout the day. The new procedure has been launched at 12 county high schools and 10 elementary schools initially and should be in place in all schools as the infrastructure is built.
The cards are not just to enter the school anymore. The new system was also implemented to keep attendance. In addition, students will use the cards to check out library books. The card can be removed for some activities, such as gym class, where it would be unsafe.
The barcode identification system is part of our culture these days. Since it was first used in 1974 when a pack of Juicy Fruit chewing gum imprinted with a barcode was successfully passed over a scanner, barcode technology has spread throughout commercial, governmental, medical, military and, now, educational institutions.
Keeping our schools secure now means more than keeping those with malign intent at bay. It also means keeping track of who is in school and who is not. That might turn out to be important in spotting absenteeism that could put graduation at risk.
We haven't reached the point yet when, as some once suggested, we all have to wear barcodes tattooed on our palms or foreheads. But our children in schools have to wear them on badges. This is no guarantee of their security — life has no guarantees — but it is one step we can take to help keep our children safe and accounted for.