Arundel board OKs funds for sex-offender screening


The Anne Arundel County Board of Education endorsed yesterday a spending plan for the next fiscal year that includes funds to screen parents and school visitors against national and state sex offender registries.

The school board approved an operating budget of more than $801 million and a capital budget of more than $113 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The budget goes to County Executive Janet S. Owens, who can cut the budget before she adds it to her spending plan for the county, which then goes to the County Council.

In a ranking of Superintendent Nancy M. Mann's spending priorities, the "visitor tracking system" is listed in the bottom third.

School officials recommended spending more than $300,000 to purchase the system, which would enable the school staff to use computers to screen parents and visitors.

Those who pass the check receive a visitor badge - with a photo - that tells school staff who visitors are, when they arrived and where they are going. If a visitor's name shows up on one of the sex offender databases, school staff, security and possibly the police are immediately notified. School officials have not developed rules covering such cases, including situations when parents are convicted sex offenders.

State law doesn't prohibit sex offenders from entering Maryland schools, but Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has proposed expanding trespassing laws to keep offenders off school grounds.

The budget approved yesterday also includes $280,000 to add swimming as an official varsity sport in county high schools.

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