Metal Detectors Mark Second Wave of District Security Measures

Photo courtesy of AP images

by Gracie Warhurst, Reporter

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Security team members and administrators will be conducting random metal detector searches in the coming weeks in response to requests from parents and community members for improved security measures.

“[Teachers] are going comply, because it is a requirement of our jobs.” American studies teacher Penny Aguirre said. “[The metal detectors will] make [the school] feel much more institutionalized.”

The searches will be conducted randomly with a portable doorway detector and a metal detector wand. Students will pass through the portable detector while their backpacks remain in the classroom and are scanned with a wand, similar to amusement park or airport security checks.

“I think that [the metal detectors create] an environment where people intending to do bad things would be dissuaded from it,” Principal George King said. “I think too that there is some peace of mind that comes with the idea that efforts to ensure a safe and secure campus continue to be updated and improved.”

Security members and an extra safety monitor will carry out searches in the presence of an administrator. Plano East will share the security equipment with the other two senior high schools, transporting it back and forth when needed.

“[The searches] will be an interruption and it will [disrupt] the instruction process a little bit,” King said. “Clearly, you’re sacrificing instruction in order to do that.”

Random searches will take place one hallway at a time with a target time of around 10 minutes per class. Boys and girls will form two lines through the metal detector, and if the silent alarm is triggered, they will be searched by a security member of the same gender. Any contraband that sets off the alarm, including weapons and e-cigarettes, will be cause for punishment.

“[Metal detectors] are a must in this day and age,” math teacher Luna Ahmed said. “If I have to, I’ll catch the students up the next day.”

Security updates such as these have reignited a long-standing debate on whether metal detector searches create a safer environment, or one that is a reminder of looming threat.

“We’re going to try to maintain as much normalcy as we can because [the searches] feel really disruptive and unsafe,” Aguirre said.

While metal detector searches will be random, school officials may also search students if they have “reasonable suspicion” as established by the 1985 Supreme Court case New Jersey v. T.L.O. Probable cause in schools is different than legal probable cause, which requires tangible evidence before a search warrant issued.

“I’m hoping [the searches are] going to give students and teachers a sense of security that the district is doing all that they can to keep the students and staff safe,” Associate Principal Robert Eppler said.