WOODBRIDGE, Va. - Eight-year-old Aniya Williams did not go to school on Friday after a River Oaks Elementary School employee wrongly identified her father as a registered sex offender and then called police.
Williams is in second grade and the mishap unfolded Thursday as family, classmates and faculty were celebrating her birthday in the school’s cafeteria.
The Woodbridge school is one of more than 13,000 schools nationwide that use Raptor Technologies’ visitor tracking software.
Raptor is best known for screening registered sex offenders.
“Someone walks through the door at a school and presents their identification to the lady behind the counter,” said Raptor Technologies founder Allan Measom in a video posted on Raptor’s YouTube page. “At that point, she scans through the scanner and captures the information and prints it out to a badge.”
Raptor’s newest CEO Jim Vesterman says in Justin Williams’ case, his first and last name matched a registered sex offender, though his middle name did not.
Even so, Vesterman points out the software provides the offender’s picture.
“They already had a picture of the guy,” said Justin Williams. “They have a description and the name, but they still wanted to talk to me.”
Raptor’s top boss urges a “side-by-side comparison between the offender and the visitor.”
“It’s up to the front desk employee to choose -- is this a match or is this not a match,” Vesterman said.
He said a school employee chose to say Williams was the offender despite information indicating otherwise.
“It wasn't me, so for them to proceed to the cafeteria and embarrass me in front of my kids and her classmates, I just don't get it,” said Williams.
Prince William County Police Sgt. Jonathan Perok emailed FOX 5 News this statement regarding the incident:
“The call was received by our communications center at 1214. Our first officer arrived at 1218 followed by the second at 1220. The officers cleared the call at 1258.
“In total, we were there approx. 40 mins which includes the officers parking and getting out of their car to go into the building, and all interactions from start to finish between us and school officials, school officials and the gentlemen in question, us and the gentleman in question, and then state police and the gentleman in question.
“To further clarify, State Police was not requested by our officers. It appears they were contacted by the schools to respond and they then let our communications center know that they were responding which was relayed to our officers at the school.
“Our, meaning county police, time with him was a short period of that total 40 mins, from the time the officer began his interactions with him in the hallway away from the children and until the time state police arrived at the school. The initial approximation I gave you yesterday was an estimate.
“There was a short period of time when our officers were waiting for the trooper to get to the school. Our interactions with him continued until the trooper got there and began to speak to him.
“Keep in mind, as stated above, he had interactions with school officials and state police, not just our officers but again that all encompasses that 40 min time frame.
“To reiterate further, at no point was he ever handcuffed or physically restrained. Our officers were polite and understanding with him and they also apologized for the mix-up.”
Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne N. Geller emailed FOX 5 News this statement:
“A trooper assigned to the Virginia State Police Sex Offender Investigative Unit responded to the school at the request of the Prince William County Police Department to assist them with their investigation into the matter.”
Prince William County Public Schools spokesperson Phil Kivatz emailed this statement to FOX 5:
"It appears that a computer system in place to protect our students inaccurately flagged a parent as a possible offender. Police were called and reportedly asked the parent to talk with them. The error was quickly found but unfortunately not before the incident upset the student. We deeply regret that this happened and will be investigating the situation to make sure it doesn't happen again. The principal immediately apologized to the family and I echo that apology on behalf of Prince William County Public Schools. We regret that the family had this experience and hope they will understand that it began with a system in place to safeguard our students.”