Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to Install Body Scanners at All 48 Middle Schools

After the technology was installed in the district’s 21 high schools earlier this year, the number of guns found in CMS buildings dropped.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to Install Body Scanners at All 48 Middle Schools

(Photo: MichaelVi, Adobe Stock)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) will install body scanners in all of its middle schools, Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh announced Friday.

The equipment, which has already been deployed in the district’s 21 traditional high schools, screens students for guns and weapons. The technology was considered after a record number of guns were confiscated from CMS buildings during the 2021-2022 school year. During the first four months, 23 weapons were discovered. During that time, CMS accounted for nearly 20% of all guns found in North Carolina school districts but makes up less than 10% of the student population.

After installing the technology in its high schools, the number of guns found in CMS buildings dropped during the second semester. From January to June, seven guns were found.

CMS will start rolling out the technology in phases in August, according to The Charlotte Observer. Eve White, CMS’ executive director of communications, said some of the middle schools will have the scanners in place when school starts on Aug. 29. Body scanners will also be installed in CMS’ designated K-8 schools, she added.

The district will spend the summer improving body scanning protocol, says The Charlotte Observer.

“The scanners have been utilized successfully but are still new to all schools,” said Eddie Perez, a media relations specialist for CMS. “During the summer, school staff will provide feedback in order to improve protocols and extend their use beyond the current implementation.”

Other steps the district put in place to improve safety include adopting an anonymous reporting app, doubling random safety screenings, and implementing the Alternative to Violence Project, a program touted as a “violence interruption” initiative offering pathways to employment and affordable housing. CMS also hired 53 additional security associates.

“I have heard that staff particularly are feeling safer about the use of the body scanners,” CMS board member Margaret Marshall said of the changes. “Students are looking out for each other and from what I have heard, the Say Something App is getting info on many things that students are concerned about.”

Since February, the app has received 1,115 tips.

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About the Author


Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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One response to “Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to Install Body Scanners at All 48 Middle Schools”

  1. Guy Grace says:

    Glad to see this district implementing this. In the article I dont see what type of solution they chose. In looking at the technologies over the last year it was noted that there are some concerns over the new technologies not being able to detect Non-Ferrous materials. I would suggest for a school district to do their research about a particular solution beyond what the salesman is telling you. A really good article came out just the other day on the website regarding a company heavily marketing to schools and its lack of ability to detect non-ferrous materials. I am not writing this to poo-poo anything in fact I love it when schools adopt new safety components. I just hate it when I see our fellow security professionals being fleeced by companies selling us something that does not do as promised. Below is some information that was compiled at the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools that may be helpful for a reader looking at weapons detection components.

    For any school system looking to expand or enhance their safety measures, weapons/metal detectors offer one line of defense for deterring weapons and other threatening objects from entering school buildings and campus athletic/special event facilities. The use of these systems has steadily increased in recent years as security threats continually adapt and change in a variety of areas, including K-12 schools and professional sporting events.
    This information utilizes and references the layered security approach and the five physical layers for school facilities recommended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)1 as outlined in the PASS Safety and Security Guidelines for K-12 Schools2. “School districts that are well prepared for individual emergencies involving students or staff members are more likely to be prepared for complex events like a community disaster or an active shooter incident.
    Their five physical layers of protection for school facilities include
    • District-Wide: Leadership and coordination at the district level are integral to the successful development and adoption of school safety processes, plans, technologies and procedures and for ensuring these measures are updated for consistency with evolving best practices. Most school safety measures have district-wide components or responsibilities. It is critical for districts to understand the fundamental link between readiness for day-to-day emergencies and disaster preparedness.
    • Property Perimeter: The property perimeter layer begins at the school property boundary and extends to the parking lot. This area includes playgrounds, sporting fields and other facilities that are often used by the public after school business hours end. The physical security of a school facility begins at the property perimeter, where the most outwardly visible security deterrents to an external threat can be implemented.
    • Parking Lot Perimeter: Within the parking lot perimeter, staff, students and visitors park their vehicles or arrive and depart by bus or other means. Just like the property perimeter layer, the parking lot perimeter should always be clearly defined.
    • Building Perimeter: The building perimeter layer begins with school grounds adjacent to the exterior structure of a building and consists of the perimeter of a building itself, including the exterior doors and windows of a school. Securing a building perimeter can range from simple to complex, especially for middle schools or high schools with multiple buildings/open campuses. Key safety and security functions take place within this layer, as it encompasses all areas where people enter and exit a school building.
    • Classroom/Interior Perimeter: The classroom/interior perimeter layer consists of a school’s entire interior, including not only classrooms but also gymnasiums, cafeterias, media centers, etc.
    For weapons detection purposes, District-Wide, Property Perimeter and Building Perimeter layers will be applicable to this discussion. When it comes to school security, it is understood that each district and school is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to physical security and weapons detection. The physical security measures work effectively when the school closes off other entrances so that there is only one way in or out. At the District-Wide level, it is recommended to create and adopt consistent security policies and procedures including but not limited to:
    • Checkpoint Components, Equipment and Setup Recommendations (Main and Secondary Entrances)
    • Security Checkpoint Component and Procedure Training Curriculum
    • Standards-based Security Level Settings recommendations
    • Checkpoint data reporting
    • Establish District-wide policies on what is permitted on campus
    o Creating a policy that can be communicated early allows those who want to comply to comply…and those who don’t can expect punitive measures based on that early communication.
    At the Building Perimeter and Property Perimeter (Sporting Fields) levels, it is recommended to:
    • Identify and Limit Building/Event Access to Main and Secondary Entrances
    • Determine Weapon Items to Detect and Prohibit, along with standards-based Security Level Setting for Weapons/Metal Detectors
    • Install or Setup Checkpoint Components, Establish Procedures
    • Select and Train Security and Checkpoint Support Personnel
    For consideration in determining weapon items to detect, the Center for Homeland Defense and Security K-12 School Shooting Database4 indicates that out of 1,951 school shootings, 69% occurred with a single or multiple Handgun(s) (n=1,361 or 69%) and 9% with a single or multiple Rifle(s) or Shotgun(s) (n=174 or 9%). Also, according to a 2021 U.S. Secret Service analysis of plots against schools5, 67 averted school attack plots were analyzed and determined the following:
    • Over half of the plotters (n=37, 55%) chose to use at least two or three types of weapons
    o Under half (n=30, 45%) planned to use 1 type of weapon
    • Nearly all of the cases (n=64, 96%) had the weapon of choice as one or more firearms
    o Second most frequently chosen weapon was explosives (n=34, 51%)
    o Third was Incendiary Devices (n=12, 18%)
    o Fourth was bladed Weapon (n=8, 12%)

    Weapons Detection for School Safety
    For weapons detection components they are described a walk-through metal detector (WTMD) as an or closed gate are an ideal choice for primary screening in school security checkpoints because they have extremely high performance in terms of detection capability and transit flow. Potential threat objects are quickly and accurately detected while non-threatening personal items do not cause an alarm. The compact design of the detector, along with optional accessories such as wheel kits, should allow them to be easily transported when needed and rapidly assembled at the checkpoint. Weatherproof versions of the detectors should also be available for outdoor applications.
    As a complement to the use of WTMDs, hand-held metal detectors (HHMD) are recommended to be used for secondary screening . Individuals are directed to the checkpoint via signage and on-going communications. The primary screening area allows for divesting of personal items, if warranted, and for individuals to enter and exit the weapons detector lane(s) in a single file format. If a person transiting the WTMD triggers an alarm, they are quickly moved aside where security uses a HHMD to pinpoint the object in question without having to physically touch them. In cases where an open gate WTMD is used, a closed gate WTMD can also be utilized for secondary screening when maximum throughput is needed.
    When it comes to screening guests, three characteristics are important as they determine security, student/guest comfort, and usability. They are:
    Detection: this one is easy to understand. It is the detection of threat items schools want to detect. Here detection means detection that is compliant with Federal and ASTM standards. Manufacturers should not make up detection standards and security levels (aka the level of detection needed). It is important that the weapons detector use Federal standards when available. Test pieces should also be created according to federal standards not according to the manufacturer’s specs. It is recommended these test pieces be available and used strictly for on-going training, configuration, and equipment calibration purposes. When considering weapon items to detect and prohibit, understand that there is a limit to the smallest metal object that can be detected with present weapons detection technology and there are tradeoffs to the size of the item to be detected. Therefore, realistic object size detection levels should be established based on the perceived threat for a given environment. District wide policies should be established to define detection minimums based on Federal or ASTM standards. Individual schools should not be left to figure out what a standard is able to detect though informal testing.
    Discrimination: the capability of not alarming on innocuous items. When an alarm occurs the detector should record a so-called nuisance alarm. Then, for example, this is completed on hundreds of passes (up to 700-800 passes at least) and a nuisance alarm rate is recorded. The lower the nuisance alarm rate the higher the throughput, with everything else being equal.
    The latest, most advanced WTMDs, are now considered Walk-Through Weapons Detectors (WTWDs), because they are designed to discriminate far more metal objects these days, significantly reducing the nuisance alarm rate, and only alarming when a mass casualty weapon (gun or larger tactical knife designed for killing) is detected. As a result of Walk-Through Weapons detectors focused on mass casualty weapons, individuals no longer have to divest personal items and the throughput is significantly greater than a traditional WTMD, because visitors don’t have to take everything out of their pockets, purses or backpacks any more. Therefore, the throughput is significantly greater.
    Let’s talk briefly about throughput. Throughput is defined as the amount of individuals passing through the checkpoint and is a function of many variables, with many of them have nothing to do with the actual detector. So, using throughput as a metric to gauge the best detector to utilize is wrong. Throughput gauges the whole checkpoint, including its layout, the detector’s users and users’ needs.
    Immunity: the ability of working in any environment. Not only indoor or outdoor (in rain and snow, for instance) but also close to source of interferences being them mechanical or electrical.
    Stationary vs Periodic Popup Screening Checkpoints
    Districts considering the use of metal detectors may want to explore options for conducting periodic popup weapons\metal detector operations that appear random to students, versus stationary metal detector programs in schools.
    Leveraging the latest portable walk-through weapons\metal detection technologies that weigh less than 25lbs and setup in less than a minute, periodic popup weapons\metal detector sweeps could be conducted at school bus stops, right outside the bus door, at school entrances, during the course of the school day, at after-school events, and in related manners to keep students off guard.
    NOTE: Some refer to periodic popups as random screenings. However, you must be careful to use the term random, due to the potential of an unlawful search in some states. While it is random from the student’s standpoint, it’s important that the school\district create a schedule to avoid the appearance of an illegal search.
    Popup Screening Checkpoints Due to a Reported Real-Time Threat
    Some districts are leveraging the latest popup portable walk-through weapons\metal detection technologies when a perceived\reported threat occurs during the school day, to help clear a school bus, classroom, entire school or campus. This method is far superior to using hand-wands, in the hopes of finding a weapon, due to human error. HHMD’s also have very little discrimination and will alarm when passed over a normally dressed individual. Constant and expected alarming leads to what we refer to as “alarm fatigue.” Alarm fatigue leads to substantial increase of missed threat items.

    Federal Standards for Detection
    It is important for weapons/metal detection technology be aligned with and follow International Standards for operation and detection. In the United States, publicly available standards are the NILECJ Standard (aka NILECJ-STD-0601-00) and the NIJ standard (aka NIJ 0602.01). While the NIJ Standard is geared towards the correctional market, the NILECJ standard addresses general building security as well so it is the right one to use in the educational market. The goal of the standard is to ensure to the degree possible that equipment is safe, reliable and performs according to established minimum requirements. Important to note is that standards define the test pieces needed to verify the compliance of the equipment under test to their performance requirements. In addition to test piece requirements, Federal Detection standards also require several different orientations of the test piece to alarm.
    Be certain to look for system compliance with these NIJ standards and others.
    Unfortunately, the emerging detection technology companies and their detectors, do not adhere to any U.S. or international standard, and they use their own detection setting and test piece to validate their settings. The above deviation from using Federal Detection standards leads to untested orientations of weapons and leads to the possibility of missed detection.
    The whole point of Federal\International standards is to ensure that the detector alarms 100% of the time on a given standard setting, leveraging a very specific, standards-based ferrous/non-ferrous test piece, regardless of the detector manufacturer, the specific detector model or where it’s deployed in the world.
    As an example, the NILECJ-2B standard, is for a typical handgun, like the Glock 43. The Glock 43 is arguably the most popular handgun in the world. The AM7 test piece was established by the NILE to resemble a compact firearm. A detector meeting the NILE-CJ2B standard will alarm on this test piece, in all of its orientations without fail.

    It’s vitally important that weapons\metal detector manufacturers adhere to Federal\International standards and that you know exactly what their test pieces are comprised of. Here’s how; simply ask them the following questions:

    • What established Federal standards do your detectors adhere to?
    • What standards do you use for your detection settings?
    • What specific standards-based test pieces do you use to validate the detector’s calibration to the standard setting on the detector?
    • Are you using a ferrous or non-ferrous metal test piece to ensure compliance?

    Emerging Detector Technology Companies and Their Detectors
    As with any technology, there are going to be new technology companies that state they have the best new gadget that looks and feels different. While it’s always good to have competition in the marketplace, and emerging technology companies challenge the status quo, it’s imperative that they still get the basics right, to ensure that they can help save lives. Consequently, years of R&D experience matters. Years and years of trusted, proven experience matters.
    One way to ensure that a new technology truly performs as advertised or demonstrated, is to use your own test pieces to walk through a detector to see if it alarms. All too often, it has been reported that some technology companies magnetize their test pieces prior to a demonstration, to help ensure that the detector alarms, while demagnetizing other items, to demonstrate that the detector doesn’t alarm on other items. Not only is this unethical, but it provides a false sense of security, because it is clearly not a real-world demonstration. Consequently, you must test any/all new technologies with some of your own test pieces, and don’t trust what everyone tells you.

    The Cost of Doing Nothing
    It is often easier to think that these Weapons Detection Systems are not important, invoke prison-like environments and that the time/resources needed to develop and implement these systems is simply not needed. However, when procured and utilized as designed, these systems provide that additional and critical layer of safety and security for students, staff, and visitors. What’s the cost of doing nothing? From a staff perspective alone, the 2018 FBI LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) report cited the following studies:
    • The average cost to a U.S. employer when an employee is killed, based on our annual study at the University of Central Florida, is $4.6 million per victim. This is an average of jury awards and out of court settlements with 84 law firms participating in the study.
    • The average cost to an employer for an assault is $177,240; this is an average of seven studies by Northwestern University Medical School. This includes direct payments to victims, worker comp claims and lost time/ productivity.
    Myth vs. Reality
    There are many misconceptions discussed about metal detectors in these environments. Common myths include:
    1. MYTH: Metal Detectors severely slow down the entrance time to our school.
    REALITY: WTMDs themselves screen an individual in seconds. Overall, security screening should be simple, fast and highly effective every time. One consideration is how to achieve the maximum throughput of individuals given by the lowest nuisance alarm rate (NAR). You certainly do not want security personnel to be distracted by false alarms for non-threat items. Referred to as discrimination, this is the ability for the WTMD to recognize or alarm for threat items such as guns and knives, while ignoring or not alarming for non-threat items including belts, watches, coins and keys. Look for those WTMDs that provide industry-leading discrimination while maintaining Federal Detection standards.

    2. MYTH: HHMDs alone are easier to implement and just as effective as WTMDs.
    REALITY: WTMDs combined with HHMDs provide a faster, more accurate and less intrusive than hand-held screening alone resulting in an overall better experience for students and staff. With HHMD alone, screening consistency and accuracy can vary among individual screeners. HHMD screening is very labor intensive and can be very burdensome when screening large numbers of individuals. WTMDs provide a consistent screening of individuals across one or more checkpoints.

    3. MYTH: All WTMDs are the same so price is the only important factor in the selection process.
    REALITY: Key factors to consider when purchasing metal detectors include Safety, Ease of Use, Customer References, and Performance.
    • Safety – How safe are the metal detectors? Instead of relying on general statements, look for 3rd party certifications for metal detector testing that meet health and safety regulations. Make sure the weapons detectors are compliant with applicable human exposure standards such as IEEE C95 (IEEE = Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers standards relating to RF radiation). In addition, the WTMD and HHMDs should be SAFETY ACT certified from the Department of Homeland Security.
    • Ease of Use – How easy are they to deploy and operate? This is important in terms of general use and security staff training. Customers have found this to be one of the keys to their security operations. The WTMDs should be very user-friendly and allow staff to gain a basic working knowledge very quickly, so they can focus on security procedures and not the WTMD equipment.
    • References – Who else is using them? Are there numerous customers that have researched and implemented these solutions? Do these references hold Federal Detection standards and/or mirror your detection requirement high on their requirements list?
    The safety of students, staff, and visitors depend on the quality of the security measures and technology provided at these checkpoints. Utilizing walk-through and hand-held metal detectors will speed up screening, help dramatically improve safety, provide peace of mind, and ensure students are kept secure.
    4. MYTH: Weapons Detectors alone can prevent all weapons from entering schools.
    REALITY: Weapons/Metal Detectors detect whatever they are set to detect, however, without a properly trained staff, along with solid checkpoint procedures, errors can occur. This “human detection” factor is an important consideration.

    5. MYTH: Magnetometer is another word for Walk-Through Metal Detector.
    REALITY: The term magnetometer, or simply mag, has been used for many years, and the term has prevailed. However, all WTMDs are not a magnetometers. A true magnetometer measures magnetism, using Passive Electromagnetics, which is only affected by signals from ferrous (magnetic) metals. When the term ferrous metal is used, it also usually implies that iron is a large percentage of the elemental composition. If it’s not the most abundant element, it would probably be the second or third most prolific. If a metal only contains trace amounts of iron, as many metals do, then that small amount is not considered enough to declare the metal ferrous.

    Since a threat can be composed of either ferrous or non-ferrous metals, or in some cases a combination of the two, it is critical to have the ability to detect both types of metals. Non-ferrous metals like aluminum, copper, lead, nickel, tin, titanium and zinc, as well as copper alloys like brass and bronze, and can only be detected using Active Electromagnetics.

    As an example, stainless steel, which contains only a small amount of ferrous metal, has little or no magnetic property. As a result, it can only be detected using Active Electromagnetics.

    As an example of a specific threat, magnetometers will not detect the Davis 32, which is well known pistol, because it is made of non-ferrous metals. A magnetometers will not detect this gun – only an Active Electromagnetic detector can.

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