Metal Detectors at YOUR School

To have metal detectors or not to have metal detectors at our schools, that is the question.

Stan Jester
DeKalb County
Board Of Education

School Safety – Where are we?
The DeKalb County School District (DCSD) has already taken numerous steps to address safety issues on our campuses. In 2016, our schools upgraded their security systems (including cameras). Additionally, enhanced web filters were added to our technology platform to alert district officials of Google searches involving words that might pose threats to the school environment (bombs, suicide, murder, guns, kill, etc. are only a few of the words included in our filter).
The new construction of school buildings now includes roll down doors that help to increase security if a non-authorized individual enters the school premises. The Public Safety Department has also purchased mobile hand metal detectors to use in middle and high schools for random searches when threats may be suspected.
DCSD is ramping up the presence of Public Safety Department Sergeants and Safe School Personnel in schools. To assist with curtailing weapons and illegal substances on school grounds, the Public Safety Department now includes the K-9 Unit.
Walk Through Metal Detectors
On Monday, DCSD Board of Education narrowly approved a pilot program to purchase 20 walk through metal detectors for $150,000. This does not include trained personnel to run them.
The pilot will place 4 metal detectors at 5 high school sites:

  • Cross Keys High School- Region 1
  • Lakeside High School- Region 2.
  • Stone Mountain High School- Region 3
  • Martin Luther King Jr. High School- Region 4
  • Towers High School- Region 5

Is this Style Over Substance? I have quite a few concerns about the efficacy and logistics of having 4 metal detectors at a school with numerous trailers and over 2,000 students with computers.
I thought the conversations at the board meeting were fascinating. Two things stuck out: 1) The administration doesn’t have a plan for how this is going to work. 2) The most important thing to the board members in the South is that the schools in the North get metal detectors.
I’ve cut and posted the discussions at the bottom.

A Lakeside High School parent sent me this email concisely delineating the issues many people have with metal detectors at our schools.

From: Lakeside High School Parent
Subject: Metal Detectors – School Safety Pilot Program

While I am happy that the BOE is addressing school safety measures, I have some concerns about the recently-approved metal detectors pilot program.
My children attend Lakeside High School, one of the schools selected for this program. As you can see in the chart below from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, with 4 metal detectors in a school of over 2,000 students, hundreds of students will be lined up each morning, waiting to pass through one of four metal detectors.
How will the DeKalb County School District be addressing the logistics involved with this pilot program to add metal detectors? What additional resources will be provided to the Lakeside Administration to allow them to carry out this program effectively?

Where will these metal detectors be placed? Lakeside’s main building, where most students enter from the bus lane, was built in the 1960s with low ceilings, narrow hallways, and a very small “lobby” area between the counseling and main/attendance offices.
How will metal detectors impact the ability of students and staff to exit the building safely and efficiently during a fire or other emergency? Will the Fire Marshall be supervising the placement of the new equipment and assessing the potential impact on safety?
Where will students wait to pass through metal detectors on rainy days or when the temperature is at or below freezing?
Will there be conveyor belts or tables for students to place their chrome books, keys, cellphones, etc…? Will there be space provided for students to repack their belongings before entering hallways?
How will delays in passing through the metal detectors impact first period instructional time? Will students be permitted to enter the building earlier to minimize delays? Will teachers be required to report to school earlier to help monitor students?
Will students who enter school after the tardy bell rings have to report to the cafeteria for a tardy pass, which is the current protocol? Will tardy students be subject to routine disciplinary action, such as before or after school detention? Who will staff additional detentions?
If SROs and our school Police Officer are monitoring metal detectors, who will direct traffic on Briarcliff Road, where there is a dangerous left hand turn to enter the school and no crosswalk for students who walk to school? With the SROs occupied, who will monitor students in the bus lanes, parking lots, cafeteria, and hallways? You might recall that I shared with you a video of a fistfight that took place at LHS last Fall. Will schools in this pilot program be provided with increased funding for additional SROs?
What about the students in portable classrooms? Will they be required to pass through a metal detector to re-enter the building? If so, will their instructional time be cut short to allow them to reach their next class on time?
Due to congestion in the hallways, some students have found it faster to walk outside to reach their next period classes. Will this be discontinued? How will the BOE address overcrowded hallways?
Many students currently eat lunch outside, as there are not enough seats for them in the cafeteria. Will they be required to pass through a metal detector to re-enter the school?
What about events held before or after school? Will metal detectors be in place and monitored for students who arrive early for morning tutorials and clubs? How about students and parents who return to school for meetings, concerts, plays, practices, and athletic events? Will they also pass through detectors?
How was Lakeside selected for this pilot program? Have there been incidents of weapons in the school? Have there been more credible safety threats at LHS than at other schools?
Given the many questions surrounding this pilot program, I hope the BOE will encourage the school system staff to respond to logistical concerns ASAP.
I also hope the BOE will address the concerns raised by the LHS Parent Council, PTSA, Lakeside Cluster Summit, Parents, Students, and community members, united in our opposition to plans to build a 38-classroom addition at Lakeside. Those of us familiar with the Lakeside campus know that the proposed addition is not a good solution to overcrowding and will likely lead to more disruptions to instruction and complications to school safety.
We need more small high schools, where staff members know their students and can create caring communities that foster success, not mega-schools with multiple building additions crammed onto small, land-locked properties.
Please request that DCSD provide viable alternatives to the proposed high school additions and answers to community concerns regarding the logistics of the metal detector pilot program. Our children are counting on you.




School Safety – What’s the Plan?
February 25, 2018 – Six people were arrested at one school in one day in two different incidents. What’s the plan to keep our schools safe?

10 responses to “Metal Detectors at YOUR School

  1. I appreciate your posting these videos. Thank you to all board members who asked great questions and raised excellent points during the work session. If this pilot is truly an outgrowth of a year of research conducted by Dr. Green and his cabinet, and not just a reaction to the tragedy at Parkland, I would have expected some more precise answers to the legitimate questions raised by our elected officials. Also, if there is currently $15 million in SPLOST funds for safety, why not reallocate those funds and the ill-advised $60 million (?) for high school additions to buy land and build an additional high school to alleviate overcrowding? Smaller schools without trailers are safer schools. Fewer students will allow staff to better know our kids and identify those who are at risk or in crisis. Dr. Morley is right about the need to help our students.

  2. ” Smaller schools without trailers are safer schools.” Yes they are … and you’re right – it’s perplexing why DeKalb leaders keep pushing for bigger and bigger schools. I personally would have never, ever dreamed that Lakeside would be so enormous. Years ago, when we moved into that district, we did so due to the small, community-based schools. Lakeside had about 800 students – and went from 8th-12th grades. Everyone knew everyone and it was very safe.
    FWIW – how did your board rep, Jim McMahon vote? Is he supporting these additions and metal detectors? If so, someone might consider running against him. After all, school board positions aren’t really meant to be careers are they? Step up people, and send in some fresh, new representation.

  3. Cere – Jim McMahan, Stan Jester, and Marshall Orson voted against this Pilot Program, but it passed 4-3, by Michael Erwin, Vickie Turner, Melvin Johnson, and Joyce Morley. It’s a shame that their passion to protect children limits their ability to use logic or demand data. Dr. Green stated in the work session that this pilot program is the result of a year of research by his cabinet. I’d like to see that research, and I hope all of our board members, as our elected leaders, are demanding it.
    With more than 20 exterior doors, it’s impossible for me to believe that 4 metal detectors will improve safety at Lakeside. This feels like a hasty, poor response to the public outcry for safer schools. In reality, this pilot program merely creates an illusion of improved safety, where only frustrating delays to instruction exist.

  4. @Perplexed, just to be fair, Dr. Green clarified that his staff hasn’t been working on this metal detector pilot program for a year, but on overall school safety.
    But having said that, I think it’s amazing that this Lakeside parent, in just 3 days between the March 19 BOE meeting and the March 22 date that Stan posted this thread, was able to find relevant throughput data for metal detectors as well as a solid list of questions about feasibility.
    Yet Dr. Green and his staff didn’t have ready answers for these questions, nor did they take the “offense is the best defense” approach and bring up these issues before the BOE did, as part of the effort that their great team can resolve. They did not inspire confidence.
    Nor did Dr. Green or his staff mention that they had spoken to, or had plans to consult with, school systems that already have metal detectors in place. I’m guessing that they haven’t done that either.
    Metal detectors may be needed. But can’t our highly paid Central Office staff put together a better plan than this?
    I applaud the 3 BOE members who voted against the plan as presented.

  5. Another anonymous

    I’ve asked a local school administrator about the metal detector pilot program and was told “metal detectors don’t work.” There seems to be a disconnect between what the central office is asking the BOE to approve and what the local schools need. What else is new?

  6. anonymous person

    There are around 100,000 public schools in the US, and about 180 days per school year. Thus, we have about 18 million school days per year. I honestly don’t understand the concept of embracing taxes, police state, government ‘protection’ in response to incidents that are statistically insignificant. As numerous people have said: car accidents, drugs, family domestic health are *far* more significant. Metal detectors? is this serious? What an absurdly overpriced, bottle-neck causing venture this is.

  7. Here is my concern with LHS being a pilot school. There is no feasible way to get students in through only four detectors in a timely fashion. Where are all those students going to wait while they are trying to get through the screening spot? Outside….. In the elements (rain, wind, heat, and possibly snow) and perhaps someone who could do a lot more harm because the students are now in the wide open with no protection.
    We have campus security people, (NOT SRO’s) that could not pass a simple fitness test years ago where the county was going to hold them to redo and if they couldn’t, and if they couldn’t after the redo, they would lose their job. What is the point of having students jump through hurdles to get inside the school building when campus security can’t get there to help out in a timely fashion?
    Also, if something was to happen outside while students are waiting, who goes to help them or are they on their own?

  8. DSW2Contributor

    Michael Desean White, a 5th-grade teacher at Region 5’s Toney Elementary School, was arrested and charged with murder.
    Clayton County Police said White is connected to a 2016 murder case where 11-year-old Tatiyana Coates and 15-year-old Daveon Coates were both found shot to death inside a house in Jonesboro, Georgia.

  9. Disappointed

    Lakeside’s Principal emailed the following message to parents on Monday. You’ll notice that there is no mention of the number of metal detectors Lakeside will receive as part of this pilot program, which is 4. There is no explanation as to which of the 25 exterior doors at Lakeside will have metal detectors, nor whether or not students will have to pass through the metal detectors after attending classes in portables or eating lunch outside. How are we supposed to approve a metal detector pilot program about which we know nothing? Why is the county requiring each family to print, complete, and return the forms to the school, when online electronic surveys are easy and inexpensive?

    “Greetings Lakeside Families,

    Lakeside High School has been identified to participate in the metal detector pilot program. The implementation is currently scheduled to begin in January 2019. Public Safety has been tasked with gathering input from the Principals, parents, and stakeholders. Your input will be invaluable, so please complete the attached document and include any comments or concerns you may have in regards to the metal detectors. After you have completed the document please return it or have your child return it to the front office no later than Friday, August 24th. Your feedback is greatly appreciated and have a great day!

  10. They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

    This is my former high school in a rural section of NC, so they do not have to worry about traffic as we do in metro Atlanta. Over the summer the school board decided to purchase four metal detectors for a little over 1500 students. As you can see by the photo provided this has created long lines and students missing half of their first-period class. School starts at 7:30 each day and some students did not finish going throught the metal detector until 8:00.. How would you feel about your student missing half a class or more every day?

    I would like to see a better plan than to just arbitrarily put up four metal detectors while our students are waiting in long lines along busy Briarcliff Road as sitting ducks for anyone who drives by. Please let us learn from others mistakes and think of a better way to keep our students safe.