Some Columbia-area school districts are going all-in on metal detectors. While many believe these tools can improve school safety, some studies research has questioned whether metal detectors can actually have a negative impact on school environments.
Both Richland 1 and Richland 2 school districts have in the last year invested in pilot programs to expand their use of metal detectors in their school buildings.
In April, Richland 1 announced it would be expanding the use of metal detectors into more middle and high schools.
The expansion followed a review of security procedures, “particularly in light of some incidents that have occurred on our campuses this year,” district Superintendent Craig Witherspoon wrote in a letter to parents announcing the shift.
Currently, metal detectors are used in every Richland 1 high school, at sporting events and board meetings, a spokesperson confirmed. More are being deployed at middle schools.
Richland 2 has run a similar pilot program this year, leading to “pop-up metal detector screenings” at district high schools and middle schools. Those random screenings will continue during the 2022-23 school year, a district spokesperson said.
Richland 2 has also used metal detectors at sporting events for years.
Other districts are also expanding their use of the technology.
In November, Lexington 2 announced it would be installing metal detectors to be used at events at district stadiums and arenas.
The district in a statement called the action part of a “continuing commitment to provide a safe and secure environment for students, employees, and community members.”
The implementation of the technology comes amid a high number of students bringing firearms to school.
Richland County schools have more instances of firearms being brought to campus than almost anywhere in the state, according to data from the state’s 2021-22 school report card.
Recent examples include a 17-year-old bringing a stolen gun to W.J. Keenan High School this October, and before that a 15-year-old Spring Valley High student in September bringing a gun to school in their backpack.
Are metal detectors good for schools?
Advocates say metal detectors help keep guns out of classrooms and help school personnel stop trouble before it happens.
But not everyone agrees on the efficacy of metal detectors in improving the school environment. The technology may not be worth the cost and can make students feel unsafe, according to the WestEd Justice and Prevention Research Center, which focuses on youth development.
Both Richland 1 and 2 have spent upwards of $1 million each on their respective metal detector programs, and both are continuing the pilot programs launched in the previous year.
Richland 2’s pop-up program has cost $2.04 million so far, according to a report shared with the school board.
What do you think? If you’re a parent, a teacher, or anyone who interacts with a school building on a regular basis, we want to hear from you.
Do you support the use of metal detectors in schools? Respond to our poll, and if you have particularly strong feelings, leave a comment and your contact information. A reporter might be in touch.
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