‘Inconvenient, expensive and don’t work’: Metal detectors are not a solution for guns in schools, officials say

FORT WAYNE, Indiana (WANE) — A 2018 shooting at a Noblesville school prompted the Indiana Department of Administration to distribute more than 3,400 metal detector wands to school districts across the state at a cost of more than $350,000 in taxpayers’ money .

Today, these wands are used sporadically at best in local school districts.

And in four separate incidents on the Fort Wayne Community Schools campus in the past two months, no metal detector baton was used in finding guns.

“Metal detectors are impractical, expensive and don’t work, but we need to keep our schools safe,” said Steve Corona, a Democrat on the FWCS school board representing District 5.

The school district, which has a total of about 29,000 students, requested and received 25 metal detector batons from the state after a shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in which a 13-year-old student shot and wounded a teacher and a classmate.

Since receiving the wands three years ago, the district has not had a formal policy on their use, although school officials say this could change based on recent events. These events include the following:

  • On August 26, police arrested a 14-year-old boy who tried to bring a gun into a football game at North Side High School.
  • On September 22, a school worker took a gun from a Wayne High School student.
  • On September 28, students at Haley Elementary School found a gun in the playground during first grade recess.
  • A gun was found on a student at North Side High School last Monday.

Still, a policy that includes using the wands on every student passing through a school is not logistically possible, officials said.

“We have 25 of these wands, scanning every student every day would be impossible,” said district spokeswoman Krista Stockman. “We don’t have the staff, we don’t have the time, that would be impossible.”

Problems with wands include proper training of people to use them, proper training on how to perform searches, what those searches would look like, and the extra staff that would be needed to do those searches.

“That’s one of those things,” Stockman said. “You have to have the staff on site. If someone goes through and triggers it, someone else needs to be there to search the student and you need to have a procedure for that. You need to have people properly trained to do these searches.”

“These are things that most schools aren’t designed for,” Stockman added.

Until now, the district has only used the wands when there is a suspicion that a student might have some type of contraband — primarily vapes and vape pens, Stockman said.

Other counties in the area have received metal detectors from the state and also use them sporadically.

East Allen County Schools received 38 but uses them only when school resource officials suspect a student has something he or she shouldn’t have and at other very selective times, district spokeswoman Tamyra Kelly said.

“It was far and wide between,” she said.

A statement from Northwest Allen County Schools officials, who received 31 wands from the state, said:

“Northwest Allen County Schools appreciates having the metal detector rods as an additional tool when a situation warrants their use. Since we received them from the state in 2019, they have been used primarily for specific purposes such as finding students.”

Currently, FWCS has student assistants provided by the Fort Wayne Police Department at most of its middle schools and hires off-duty officers to also provide security. But even with that staffing, it would be impractical to use wands on 500 to 2,000 children entering a school to start the day, officials said.

The school day would never start on time.

“We got these devices about five years ago and the reason they were given out was a tragedy,” Stockman said. “This was a state response to help schools, but again, it was never a fully adequate way to cover all school safety.”

“Right now we’re in a different time five years ago, we’re seeing things in our community weren’t the same five years ago, things that we didn’t see five years ago,” Stockman added. “We may need to look at these devices a little differently, maybe find a better use for them, but also look for additional opportunities.”

School officials plan to meet with police and other community leaders next week to discuss keeping guns out of schools, Corona said.

“Well that’s the problem, guns and drugs are a community issue and they’re bringing that issue into schools,” Corona said. “We need to get community leaders and church leaders involved to talk about this not going to end well. This story will have a bad ending.”

In the four most recent incidents where a gun was found, it was students who contacted the school administration. That applauds Corona.

“I think our students are very brave,” he said. “In every instance where we have had a gun at school, the students have reported it to the main office. They’re not afraid to file a complaint, to say to the principal, principal or other principals, ‘I saw a gun at school,’ and they come forward.”

“I think that’s very brave of our students and they’re doing the right thing,” Corona said.

https://www.wane.com/top-stories/impractical-expensive-and-dont-work-metal-detectors-not-a-solution-to-guns-in-schools-officials-say/ ‘Inconvenient, expensive and don’t work’: Metal detectors are not a solution for guns in schools, officials say

Dais Johnston

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