In the ongoing response to the February 14, 2018 tragedy at Parkland High School, Florida districts are hardening the infrastructure at their schools.

This week brings news that the Duval County school district plans to install metal detectors at all high schools. This was news that seemed to take even board members by surprise.

Wondering about the interworkings between district leadership and the school board and a change in long-standing policy (informal) against installing metal detectors at schools is above GOT’s paygrade.

Nevertheless, given the limited information we have, GOT can’t help but wonder if the new policy or practice is well thought out.

First, each school will receive two metal detectors for the hundreds of students who arrive daily. At my school, that means every day about 1,500 students will have to pass through the new security. It’s not only the walk-through that will be slow; every student arrives with a book bag, often an additional sports bag, and sometimes a purse. All will have to be hand searched or there is no point to having metal detectors.

Think about the last time you flew on an airplane and the long delays of getting through security. Airports have x-ray machines for the baggage. Usually, a dozen or more persons are working the equipment. Even so, hours-long delays are common. Now think about 1,500 students arriving at school within 20 to 30 minutes by bus and car.

How long will it take to get every student into class?

Second, the machines will be supervised by administrators. At my school, that’s two adults per station. That takes them away from supervising the actual arrival areas. Who’s going to take their place? Or do we hope that the students will not engage in misbehavior before they walk to the entry point?

Third, students arrive early. They are not supposed to arrive until 45 minutes before the start of the school day. However, many are dropped off early as parents have to get to work on time. Do we keep the doors locked? Or will we have to round them up at a certain time and make them pass through the detectors?

What about faculty and staff? What about those of us who arrive one to two hours early to put in the extra time needed to prepare for the day? Will we be told not to show up until our contract time? Will the adults on campus also have to pass through the security screening?

If not, won’t students quickly figure out how to enter the buildings where faculty do and bypass the screening?

Students who show up early often go to a willing teacher’s room to sit and do work. For some, lacking internet service at home, that is the only time they can do their online assignments. They will no longer be able to do so if we keep them out of the buildings until administrators arrive to screen entry.

GOT would hold up the purchase order until these issues are considered and a well-thought-out plan has been drafted, debated by board members, and shared with the community, most especially parents.

Otherwise, we face another issue that our schools are beginning to resemble prisons. A lot of kids think that, anyway, but do we want the atmosphere of our schools to change from a learning environment to one of fear? Effective learning takes place when students are free to explore, examine, and challenge. But a daily reminder that school is not a safe place to be will make that hard to maintain.

Update One: I forgot to add the disclaimer that my blog posts, including this one, represent my opinion and mine alone, and should in no way be interpreted as an official or even an unofficial position of the school district that employs me. So said an email I received last week about blogging and using social media. I don’t think anyone would fail to recognize that I speak for myself, but now–hey–CMA accomplished.

Update Two: In today’s faculty meeting, I learned that the district does not intend to search every bag as students enter school. So this is really more of a PR move with an estimated cost of 2.5 million rather than a serious attempt to improve security. But hey! Maybe the state will approve the grant and pay for it.

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