The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

Are Metal Detectors the Next Step?

Views about effictiveness, equity vary
Regina Bryant
Metal detectors stand at the entrance of Maple Heights High School. Akron Public Schools purchased metal detectors and X-ray machines in 2022. Garfield Heights City Schools use detectors at school entrances and athletic events.

Airports. Sports arenas. Courthouses. Concert venues. You can’t enter any of these places without first passing through a metal detector.

Now, metal detectors are also in some Ohio schools, and talk of installing them at Shaker is increasing.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics survey, about 11.9 percent of U.S. students ages 12-18 stated that their school had metal detectors as a security measure in 2019.

In December 2022, the Akron Public Schools approved a $1.7 million purchase of metal detectors and X-ray machines. In Garfield Heights, high school and middle school students enter through metal detectors into their buildings and at athletic events. Bedford High School and middle school also have metal detectors, and students in preschool through fifth grade are required to use clear backpacks.

Some Shaker parents are advocating for metal detectors in their social media posts, and some parents circulated a petition for increased security measures in response to recent fights in the high school. The building was placed into a stay-put during Crew Jan. 9 due to rumors that an intruder had entered. Two days later, two trespassers were arrested at the high school Jan. 11 after entering through an unlocked door in the north gym, walking to the cafeteria and assaulting students in the senior lounge.

“I think our community is split close to 50-50 on whether people want or don’t want metal detectors,” Principal Eric Juli said. “Having something like that is definitely connected to community will or desire.”

At SuccessTech Academy in Cleveland, a student shot two students and two teachers on Oct. 10, 2007. In response, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District installed metal detectors in all Cleveland public schools.

Before coming to SHHS, Juli was principal of Design Lab Early College High School in Cleveland. The school employed metal detectors, but there was only one entrance for the approximately 350 students, he said. Shaker Heights High School has 1,466 students and 26 doors.

Security staff at Design Lab Early College High School also checked bags by hand after students placed them on conveyer belts upon entrance. They used handheld metal detecting wands if the metal detectors could not identify the cause of alarm.

Metal detectors “certainly help students and adults have peace of mind about whether or not items that we wouldn’t want in the school are in the school,” Juli said.

“They also don’t stop people from doing the wrong thing. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t have fights and other things; we certainly did,” he said. “But we weren’t worried about weapons coming into the building.”

Juli said installing metal detectors in entrances such as the lower cafeteria and auditorium doors could be difficult, but requiring every student to walk through the front doors isn’t feasible due to the size of the student body and the 10-minute interval for arriving at class after students are allowed to travel the building.

However, some metal detectors are too sensitive, leading to false alarms that can make students late. Juli said this was true of detectors at his Cleveland school.

In a 2017 test, Transportation Security Administration metal detectors showed a failure rate of over 70 percent. Two years earlier, a similar test showed a 95 percent failure rate.

One parent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they teach at a school that uses metal detectors, said these problems don’t negate their value. “Will it slow down the process of school in the beginning? Absolutely,” she said. “Is it worth it? One million percent.”

The parent said that the school was “in the same place as Shaker” before installing detectors. Now, she said, it’s “never felt more intentionally safe at any school than where I teach now.”

“I’ve heard parents since this has happened saying, ‘It’s just fights. We don’t need metal detectors,’ ” she said. “I’m like, ‘You don’t understand — because of our lack of gun laws in America — the amount of guns that are in the hands of our students.’ ”

Junior De’Losia Starks said she doesn’t want metal detectors at the high school because it would be difficult to make them work with building entrances. However, she acknowledged the safety benefits of detectors. “Someone did bring a gun in here,” Starks said, referring to a Nov. 14 incident in which high schoolers were dismissed early after students informed school officials that a student possessed an unloaded handgun.

Junior Tomaja’ne Allen said she would feel safer if security staff checked student bags upon entrance. However, she said it would complicate entering the building. “It’s going to take forever to come in in the morning,” she said.

Sophomore Jaime Delgado supports metal detectors. Said Delgado, “Even if it might be a small step, it will definitely help with the things people could bring into the school to start fights.”

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