Years ago, the biggest concern in terms of school security was breaking up fights on the playground. Over the past several years, however, the security landscape at our nation’s schools has changed greatly, and parents and school administrators now have to be on the lookout for threats that were never a concern before. This has led many schools to rework their school security systems, installing video surveillance, secure entrances through which guests must be buzzed in, and devices such as school metal detectors to help weed out potential threats.
The latter has caused lots of controversy amongst some parents. Do the benefits of metal detectors outweigh the downsides?
Reducing the Risk of Dangerous Items Entering the School
With mass shootings becoming an ever-present part of the daily headlines, school administrators have been hard at work figuring out school security solutions to prevent firearms from entering schools. Metal detectors are highly effective at alerting staff to any firearms that students attempt to smuggle into a school — whether they’re bringing it in to do harm or to show off to a friend. They’re also useful in detecting knives, bombs, and other dangerous items that could pose a threat to students and staff alike.
School metal detectors are so useful in weeding out these threats that their use has steadily increased over the years. The National Center for Education Statistics found that the number of students required to pass through metal detectors daily went from less than one percent in the 1999-2000 school year to two percent in 2013-2014 (the last year covered by the study).
What Type of School Metal Detectors Are Best?
Schools can opt for two different types of metal detectors: stationary ones that everyone entering the school must pass through or handheld ones that are ideal for making random or individual searches. Stationary metal detectors have the benefit of screening everyone, but they can be expensive; the kind of stationary metal detector best suited for schools costs around $4,000 to $5,000 for a single detector. In addition to the up-front cost, the school will also need to hire someone to operate the metal detector (and decide if it will run all day or only be used to scan students upon arrival in the morning).
At a few hundred dollars each, handheld metal detectors are much more cost-effective but must be used to manually scan each student. This makes them less useful for when a large number of people are arriving for the day and presents concerns about their overall accuracy. They can be a useful compromise for schools and parents concerned with the price and appearance of stationary metal detectors.
The Pros and Cons of School Metal Detectors
An increasing number of threats and a desire to keep students safe through a variety of school security strategies has led many administrators and parents to weigh the pros and cons of metal detectors.
The pros include the ability to confiscate hidden dangerous weapons before those weapons can be taken out and used. The presence of metal detectors can also act as a deterrent for students considering bringing a weapon to school. They also demonstrate to the community that the school administration is working on the front lines to keep their school safe.
For some parents, however, the presence of metal detectors makes a school feel harsh and unwelcoming. Cost is also a concern, as staff must be hired and trained in using the metal detectors properly. The school also needs someone posted in front of the metal detector in order to assist students, staff, and visitors with removing any items that may create false alarms as they walk through.
It’s up to parents and school administrators to work together to determine if metal detectors are the right solution for their students. A growing number of schools have decided that the answer is yes and are using metal detectors as one piece in their overall school security strategy.
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