High schools phase in the use of ID cards

Montgomery County Public Schools officials hope ID cards will help high schools in the county identify their students and staff and tell who belongs and who does not belong on school grounds.

Next school year, all high school students in Montgomery County Public Schools will be required to wear or carry a photo ID, but some schools are phasing in their use this school year.

At Poolesville High School, staff members are wearing identification badges this semester in order to get students accustomed to the idea, while in Germantown, Northwest High School students began wearing IDs when the new semester began three weeks ago. Northwest teachers have worn IDs since the beginning of the school year.

“The mandate [for IDs for students and staff] is for next year, but we decided to start it this year so we’d have some read time and be able to reevaluate in May to see if we need to make any changes,” Northwest High School Principal Ed Shirley said.

It is up to each high school to decide whether students will wear or carry the badges. The Student Government Association at Poolesville is conducting a survey to gauge students’ preferences, and the school is seeking input from parents and staff, Poolesville High School Principal Mark Levine said.

“When students are wearing IDs, even a staff member will be able to identify a student who’s wearing one,” Levine said.

A committee of staff, parents and students recommended that Northwest students wear the IDs.

“It’s a quick, Fake IDs easy way to make sure everybody coming down the hall is yours,” Shirley said.

But the ID cards have other benefits. Northwest’s IDs contain a bar code and students can use the cards to check out materials from the media center. Students with a cafeteria account can use the IDs as debit cards for food purchases.

“Hopefully there will be many uses with time,” said Levine, who sees students one day using the IDs for purchasing tickets to plays, dances, athletic contests or other school events. In the future, they may be similar to IDs used at colleges and universities, with students having to swipe the cards to open doors at entrances and teachers using the cards to take attendance.

For now, the challenge is getting students used to an idea they might not be crazy about. Part of the process is relating IDs worn in school to what students will encounter in the workforce.

“So many occupations now you are required to wear IDs . all the governmental offices, and that’s what we’re telling [students],” Shirley said.

Students who arrive at Northwest without their IDs are sent to the security office, where staff uses a computer that stores students’ yearbook photos to issue a new badge. Fake ID Students are charged $5 for a reissued ID, but the fee is waived if they find their old ID and return it to school staff.

Adam Schwartz, a Northwest sophomore, said he wasn’t fond of the idea of IDs initially, but has gotten used to it. “It’s not really intrusive, but it’s another attempt by the school to put [students] in our place,” he said.

But senior Jason Hackett doesn’t think the IDs are practical as a security feature. “If something bad is going to go down at the school, it’s probably a student who goes there anyway,” he said.

“When you look at safety and security, the use of ID cards alone isn’t going to make anybody safe and secure,” said Robert Hellmuth, the school system’s assistant director for safety and security.

But the IDs can help school security identify who belongs in the building and who does not. That’s important to schools in busy neighborhoods such as Gaithersburg High School, Hellmuth said.

Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring has used IDs for years, Hellmuth said. Good Fake IDs MCPS policy requires school visitors to first report to the main office where they are issued a visitor’s badge. Teachers at Ronald McNair Elementary School in Germantown also wear IDs.