Some schools with chronic violence and weapon violations have installed
metal detectors at their entrances, screening students for contraband as they
arrive. That conversation has started in Worcester, where police have arrested
several students in the past few weeks for possession of firearms, among other
potentially deadly weapons.
A security audit is underway and metal detectors are on the table, although
there is community and City Council resistance.
Ken Trump, president of Cleveland based National School Safety and Security
Services, believes metal detectors are an unsustainable, knee jerk political
reaction. He cautions against their use for practical reasons like cost, and
because they are often seen as a replacement for better strategies.
Trump has been a school safety consultant for 30 years and Congress has
invited him to testify on the topic four times since 1999. He also provided
testimony to the task force that was formed after the Sandy Hook shooting and
frequently appears as an expert on national news programs.
School officials in Boston and Springfield told MassLive metal detectors are
beneficial. Still, Trump urges decision makers to carefully consider the costs
The best practices are not manageable
"There's a great deal of pressure put on schools . to create some visible,
tangible signs of security, and oftentimes that equates to some form of
equipment," said Trump. "One gun is one too many (but) the devil is in the
details of implementation."
In order to do the job, a metal detector would have to be coupled with other
measures that simply are not realistic. First and foremost, they must be in use
around the clock, 365 days a year, to prevent someone from stashing a weapon,
Trump said. All ground floor windows need to remain permanently shut so no one
can pass anything into the building. No one can prop open a door, even
temporarily, and every entrance and exit would need to be manned.
Some of these measures could violate local ordinances and fire codes. And
everyone, young and old, student and staff, parent and visitor, would need to
be screened every time they enter, no matter the purpose.
If you want to go see a play, report for athletic practice or games, use the
gym outside school hours, or attend a public meeting, you'd have to go through
the metal detector. Even just dropping off your child's lunch or going to a
parent teacher conference would require the same.
Otherwise, why bother installing it in the first place?
The cost is not necessarily worth it
What if it breaks? Can the school district or the city afford to fix it?
The one time installation cost can buy a sense of security "instead of
investing in more longer term strategies that are focused on people," Trump
Springfield public schools utilize metal detectors and have found them
helpful. District spokesperson Azell Cavaan declined to tell MassLive how many
schools have them, citing security concerns.
The equipment was purchased from Security Detection, based in Holliston.
Springfield's Open Checkbook website shows the city new england patriots jersey paid
$16,475 for five metal detectors and sent the company another $2,799.50 for an
unspecified "invoice" in fiscal 2015, along with $1,000 for a "repair." A
separate line item titled "Metal detector and handheld wand" shows a cost of
Even if the money is in the budget, one could argue that it's an unnecessary
expense for most communities.
Metal detectors create a false sense of security
In 2013, a 14 year old in Atlanta was shot in the neck inside a school that
used them. Administrators admitted the machines were "not operable" that
A Minnesota school with a metal detector, guards and fencing was the site of
a mass shooting in 2005 that left seven people dead. The gunman killed an
unarmed security guard manning the detector, and the other guard fled for his
Cavaan said Springfield's metal detectors are not always manned by police
officers. A security guard or a staff member familiar with the equipment and
the procedure may conduct the checks, as well.
She hesitated to say that the school staff member would be "trained," but
"they do go through some kind of proper familiarization process." Each school's
security team coordinates with the district's central office to ensure the work
is done properly, and administrators are expected to report problems with the
metal detectors that may lead to vulnerabilities.
Trump said metal detectors can be useful in large urban districts like Los
Angeles and New York City. tampa bay buccaneers shop
Keep in mind, though, that the size and location of a school has nothing to do
with the students' ability to get their hands on weapons, he said. Gangs and
drug dealers are not the only ones with guns; everyday law abiding citizens
have them, as well, and it's not impossible for a child of any age to throw one
in his backpack or stash it in his locker.
There are better ways to find out about a gun in a school
Trump said the best way to find out about a weapon in school is to build
relationships with students and make them feel comfortable reporting it to a
Many of the best security measures are invisible, he said. They include
training staff on lockdown procedures and providing access to mental health
care and guidance counselors: "The first and best line of defense is a highly
alert and well trained staff and student body."
Cavaan, the Springfield spokesperson, said metal detectors are just one
element in a broad strategy.
"They are one of several tools we use to help ensure student and staff
safety. We don't rely solely on metal detectors, but they are an important part
of our security, particularly at the high school level," she said. "The metal
detectors have done their job in terms of alerting staff to items that maybe
shouldn't be brought into the school."
Every school in Springfield has a buzzer system for visitors, and all are
expected to sign in at the front office, said Cavaan. Staff, when possible,
will escort the visitor to his or her destination. The Quebec Unit, the city's
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Free Shipping version of school resource officers, also circulates between
schools to keep an eye on things, and cameras monitor every common area.