Thursday, June 13

Are other area school districts considering metal detectors?

Every Palm Beach County high school student will soon walk through metal detectors before going to class.

Superintendent Mike Burke announced Wednesday he plans to spend $2 million to purchase the equipment for the rest of the district’s high schools following a successful pilot program at four of them.

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Thousands of students file into John I. Leonard High School every day, now passing through metal detectors, along with Seminole Ridge Community High School, Palm Beach Lakes Community High School, and Palm Beach Gardens Community High School.

Students and staff are learning the in’s and out’s of the new safety equipment.

“It is a deterrent to bringing anything on campus that shouldn’t be there,” Burke said.

Now the School District of Palm Beach County said it’s time to expand.

“We have large high schools, so the biggest concern was making sure we could get kids through the devices and into school on time. This technology has come a long way. You can pass through a student in about a half second,” Burke said.

Chief Sarah Mooney of the school district’s police department said that while not foolproof, adding this layer of security to every high school is worthwhile.

“If it’s not going to disrupt the overall capacity of the school, then I think you continue to add until you think you’ve hit 100%,” Mooney said. “But as I said, the whole safety and security program, you are never at the end. There’s always room for improvement.”

So will we see this technology anywhere else?

The Lee County School District in the Fort Myers area also rolled out the same weapons detection system this school year. The district told WPTV that 16 of its nearly 100 schools started the year with the equipment in place, with plans to deploy it at every elementary, middle, K-8, and high school.

In our area, a spokesperson at St. Lucie Public Schools released the following statement to WPTV on Thursday:

“We regularly review all of our safety protocols and at this time we are monitoring other districts to determine the effectiveness of this initiative.”

“You have to take into consideration if you have the staff to actually monitor these devices, and are they useful in that setting?” said Frank Frangella, the chief of safety and security for the Martin County School District.

Frangella said he sees the pros and cons and believes most school districts will use them in some capacity in the future.

“We’re looking at portable ones that we’ll probably use for our boardroom and also for after-school sporting events. And possibly, maybe, we’ll pilot one to see how it works in the school,” Frangella said. “Right now, we don’t have a plan to be using them in the schools, but it may be something we look at in the future.”

In Palm Beach County, Burke said they’ll be bringing high schools online with the metal detectors throughout the course of the school year, understanding it will take time to get the equipment here, get staff trained, and students comfortable with using it.

WPTV asked the School District of Palm Beach County if anything illegal has been found at the four schools using the metal detectors, but our news team has not yet received a response.

Miami-Dade Public Schools told WPTV metal detectors are not used in schools there, but the district does have a “random metal detection system” in place, which is used as needed.

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