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School board to take action on visitors policy Monday

Policy came under attack after alleged ‘Twilight’ actor visited two Newton schools

Published: Friday, Aug. 8, 2014 10:47 a.m. CDT

The topic of school security has been a hot button issue in the Newton Community School District after a 33-year-old California man now facing several criminal charges visited two Newton schools and attended a school sponsored pool party in late-May and early-June.

With less than two weeks until school begins, the board of education will take action on what to do about the district’s current visitors policy at Monday’s meeting.

David LaVera was initially charged with enticing a minor and carrying weapons, and is now also charged with third-degree sexual abuse, two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, two counts of invasion of privacy and another count of attempting to entice a minor.

His initial charges came in June after police say he claimed to be an actor from the “Twilight” movie series and used his alleged celebrity status to entice a 14-year-old girl to a park in Baxter after having sexually explicit conversations with the teen on Facebook.

In an interview Thursday, Superintendent Bob Callaghan said that he and District Business Manager Gayle Isaac will suggest several things to the board as potential solutions. He said one recommendation is to train district staff to be more consistent in enforcing the current policy.

The district’s current policy was adopted in 1989, was revised in 1993 and reviewed in  2011, and states:

“Anyone who is not a regular staff member or student of the school shall be termed a ‘visitor.’ Any visitor to the school must report to the office of the principal upon arrival at the school; failure to do so may lead to legal charges. Parents/guardians or citizens who wish to observe a classroom while school is in session are expected to arrange such visits in advance with the teacher, so that class disruption may be kept to a minimum.

“A principal may choose to restrict visitors’ observation of classes to avoid class disruption. Teachers are expected not to take class time to discuss individual matters with visitors. A principal may choose to restrict entry to a building of an individual when necessary to ensure the safety of students.”

Another recommendation is having every parent provide identification when they check into the office. Callaghan said these IDs would be photocopied, kept on file and that after district staff became accustomed to a parent’s presence, this procedure could be waived for that parent.

Callaghan said the recommendations would be discussed more extensively at Monday’s meeting.

One suggestion made during a previous meeting was installing a sex offender detection system in every district building from Raptor Technologies. The system would cost between $10,000 and $12,500 to install and $2,500 annually to maintain.

Callaghan said that at this time, he and Isaac aren’t recommending the district go that route.

In other business:

• There will be reports from the food services, technology and maintenance departments.

• A vote on approving the district and superintendent goals.

• Reports from the School Improvement Advisory Committee’s subcommittees.

• Setting a public hearing date for the purchase of greenhouse for agriculture students at Newton Senior High School.

Contact Senior Staff Writer Ty Rushing at (641) 792-3121 ext. 6532 or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.

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