Flash Passes, Proximity Cards & Smart Cards to Improve School Safety

Security on school campuses is always of high importance, but it’s especially vital at the start of a new year. The beginning of the school year is the best time for parents, teachers and administrators to implement new rules and plans, and this is a key time to apply new safety regulations. Schools can aid in the prevention of school violence and school trespassing with the use of photo ID card policies. When students show up for orientation, they should be handed a photo ID and encouraged to wear it any time they are on campus. As school populations grow and technology becomes more advanced, it’s more challenging to keep kids and staff safe. Knowing which types of photo IDs are available and how they work are the first steps to creating and implementing a school photo ID policy.


There are 3 main types of ID cards that are used by colleges, schools and corporations. These are traditional photo ID cards, or flash passes, proximity cards and smart cards. Each card offers a different level of security and potential uses.

1.Traditional Flash Passes – These are traditional photo ID cards that contain the student or teacher’s name, photo and school mascot or logo. They are often called flash passes because they are quickly shown to security officers or patrol guards to gain access to campus or rooms. These types of IDs are beneficial because they help identify who is permitted to be on campus. They rely on human eyes however, and if a person can skip past a security guard, they can gain access to campus with no further measures taken. Although flash passes do not offer extra security, they are still commonly used by schools and can be used to increase safety. Traditional photo ID cards can provide security in the following ways:

  • Color coding: Each level of student and staff can wear a different color plastic card. At a glance this can help security officers and administrators identify between a teacher or other staff member, a student and their grade level (which often coincides with areas on campus the student should be), and a visitor. Be sure to offer visitors a temporary ID card that is a unique color to differentiate them from others on campus. Visitor ID cards can be customized with unique ID numbers or expiration dates. Expiration dates make it harder for these cards to be faked or stolen from campus and re-used.
  • With Lanyards: Have each grade level, administrative staff member and maintenance employee wear a different color lanyard. Color coding of ID cards and lanyards makes it more difficult for the cards to be duplicated with fakes. Each person on campus should be aware of what the colors mean. Color codes can also help identify students on unauthorized areas of campus. (For instance, 12th graders being on 9th grade halls or wings without need.)
  • With Bar codes: Bar codes can be used to confirm attendance at school and at school events. They can also help keep track of where a student was last seen, in case they were to disappear.

Implementing color codes is a simple yet effective way to boost security. Small measures like these make it more difficult to forge IDs, because anything outside of the color codes set up by the school would be easily identified.

2. Proximity Cards – Proximity cards offer another layer of security beyond that of flash passes. Proximity cards use radio frequency to send a special number to door-side card readers. These cards are very difficult to forge, because the card reader will only unlock the door if the scanned number matches an identified number in the school security system. These types of cards can provide security at every access point on campus, from the front entrance to the library and cafeteria (wherever a side-door card reader can be installed). It is difficult to keep security and patrol officers in each of these locations, so proximity cards help to fill that gap.

3. Smart Cards – Many schools and larger corporations are implementing the use of smart cards. Smart cards offer the highest level of security. These cards not only help identify students and staff, they can also be used to purchase lunch, buy drinks or snacks from vending machines and check out library books. These cards contain a chip that communicates with a network, and they allow kids to sign into computers, use printers on campus and more. Parents can also monitor their child’s use of funds, and pre-load the card with lunch money, printer money and more. This eliminates the child’s need to carry cash that can be easily stolen or lost. Schools also benefit from smart cards because they save money on paper, ink and other supplies that are often wasted or overused.

What information should be included on a student ID card?

It is essential for any photo ID to include the most recent photo of the student, which is updated at least once each school year, the student’s name and grade level and the school mascot.

However, some schools also include clubs the student is a member of, sports the child plays and other mentions such as honor roll. These additions can turn a common photo ID into something the student is proud to wear, and can help teachers, coaches and parents locate students after school hours, if needed. Schools can even implement a pin system or star system. Each new accomplishment can come with a new pin on the child’s ID card!

For elementary schools looking to implement a badge policy, the following are important to include on each child’s ID card:

Elementary school name, school mascot or logo, grade level, classroom number, teacher name and parent name. If the student rides a bus, it is also important to include the bus number. All of this information can help keep young students safe on campus, and makes it much easier to guide kids back to their classroom if they are lost.

There are many ways schools can use badges and IDs to keep their kids safe. At NameTagWizard.com we are always open to hearing your ideas. Do you have a unique way you have used school photo IDs on your campus or in your workplace?

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