The Pros and Cons of Installing Metal Detectors in Schools

School and university officials must consider both the benefits and the drawbacks of every security investment, like this common entryway solution.

The Pros and Cons of Installing Metal Detectors in Schools

Some argue metal detectors are a strong deterrence while others believe they send the wrong message.

Cons of Installing Metal Detectors in Schools

Sending the Wrong Message

The two largest school districts in the country — New York City Schools (NYS) and Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) — have faced criticism for their use of metal detectors on school grounds.

Parent groups in New York, for instance, argued in 2015 that the devices were unnecessary and discriminatory because they were mostly installed in the schools with the most minority students.

Schools Consider Metal Detectors After South Florida Shooting

Following February’s tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in south Florida, many school officials are considering purchasing metal detectors for their buildings, including the district where the shooting took place.

Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie says the district is considering installing metal detectors at front entrances of high schools.

The detectors are one of several security enhancements on the table. That list also includes bullet-proof glass.

Also in Florida, Hillsborough County School Board member Lynn Gray is calling for metal detectors in every middle school and high school in the district.

“It is not a question of if a shooting will occur, it is a question of when,” Gray wrote in a statement. “When the [Parkland] incident happened just a while ago, it could have been one of our schools.”

Many other officials from school districts in states including South Carolina and Connecticut have also called for metal detectors in school buildings.

Still, Steve Hutton, the director of the Kentucky Center for Instructional Discipline at Eastern Kentucky University, believes there are better ways to secure a school building.

“In my opinion, metal detectors give folks a false sense of security,” he says. “Kids know how to beat metal detectors … They could slip a gun through a window or get help from a buddy to get it into the school. For my money, there’s nothing that tops having a school resource officer in a building.”

The union for NYS school safety agents has said the machines are critical to school security, citing a fatal campus stabbing by a student that police said could have been prevented if a metal detector had been installed at the school.

In 2016, LAUSD faculty members and student advocates criticized a district policy to conduct random metal detector searches of students at all secondary schools.

“There’s an inherent tension between beefed-up security on one end of the rope and maintaining a welcoming, supportive school climate on the other,” Ken Trump, a school security consultant who heads National School Safety and Security Services, told the Christian Science Monitor in 2016.

Steve Hutton, the director of the Kentucky Center for Instructional Discipline at Eastern Kentucky University, believes school officials should instead focus on building relationships with students.

“You need to look below the surface,” Hutton explains. “For me, it’s about helping all kids feel capable, connected and contributing within the school. I tend to look to build relationships with kids as a starting place.”

Cost

Arguably the biggest factor slowing the adoption of metal detectors in schools and colleges is the cost associated with purchasing them. Many buildings on college campuses, for instance, have several frequently-used entrances that can make screening ineffective without the purchase of a large number of machines.

K-12 schools, meanwhile, may not have the money to buy the machines for even one front entrance.

Vazquez says the biggest difference he sees when dealing with customers in the education industry compared to elsewhere is the emphasis on cost.

“It’s all about budget,” he says. “That’s one of the biggest challenges for schools, they don’t have the budget. But the world isn’t going to change, so I say get the equipment you need, whether it be camera systems or access control or whatever. Find the budget somehow. Fundraise if you have to; just make it happen.”

About the Author

Contact:

Zach Winn is a journalist living in the Boston area. He was previously a reporter for Wicked Local and graduated from Keene State College in 2014, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minoring in political science.

Read More Articles Like This… With A FREE Subscription

Campus Safety magazine is another great resource for public safety, security and emergency management professionals. It covers all aspects of campus safety, including access control, video surveillance, mass notification and security staff practices. Whether you work in K-12, higher ed, a hospital or corporation, Campus Safety magazine is here to help you do your job better!

Get your free subscription today!


10 responses to “The Pros and Cons of Installing Metal Detectors in Schools”

  1. […] have a lot of things to take into account before making the decision to purchase these devices. (read more)   School districts seek to beef up security (New York) – RecordOnline.com Voters in the […]

  2. If someone said, “what’s the first thing that comes to mind if I say, The Happiest Place on earth”, people will usually respond with, ‘Disney world!’, and if I’m not mistaken, they use Metal Detectors.
    So, if the Happiest Place On Earth can use Metal Detectors, and check all bags that enter their parks, why can’t schools do the same.
    I understand where budget and manpower can come into the discussion, but like your article reads, come up with the money somehow, someway, hold fundraisers or use other creative ways to raise the funds necessary.

  3. What are the options? 1. Do we chance going out in a storm for fear of getting struck by lightning? So risk assessment says odds of a shooting at our school are way too low to beef up security? 2. Do we let teachers arm themselves in defense of themselves and their students and let the public and students know that a percentage of the school is armed and live in the days of the wild, wild west? 3. Metal detectors at entryways? A clever student with intent to harm could easily take out the armed individuals at the entrance and carry on with his/her motives. 4. For those worried about an attack in the unforeseen future just home-school their children? What other options are there? Which is the most logical and least taxing?

  4. Be proactive and install them in every school. Trained security folks too. We have increased security at airports and had zero hi-jacked aircraft since 9/11.
    I think it is a small price to pay to prevent the carnage….

  5. Bitsy says:

    Who cares what people think? Put in metal detectors in all schools. That is, if the parents want their kids to live! You can’t control the guns on the street, but you can control a building or a school. Hello, it’s very simple.

  6. Daaaaang! Thats not fair! We Need better security!

  7. lebron james says:

    i agree bro that rlly sucks like ur skillz

  8. lebron james says:

    daaaaaang thaats not fair we need better security i agree freind

  9. Kyle says:

    Good lord I don’t even know where to start but simply NO! Metal detectors are only ‘hot’ because it’s the popular thing to do. If you were told to jump off a cliff to stop a school shooting I am sure many of you would (great way to reduce global population by the UN) because security experts say that certain kinds of groups are more likely to bring guns to school.

    So anyways the cost of metal detectors (for a cheap crappy one is 4,000$) JUST FOR ONE! out of 10 exits and many more windows. (Which also doubles as a fire escape if the door fails). What will happen when just ONE metal detector breaks down?

    This is not just physical problems but mental ones too creating the image of a jail. Do we REALLY want kids to be comfortable in a jail like environment where everything is strictly controlled? Then they get out in the big wide world and find life is far from it and can’t handle not being in a confined environment?

    Also what about bottle necks? That’s where shootings will occur next like the airport in Europe where a checkpoint was blown up so their answer? Make another checkpoint further away which posts the same issue! Geez why didn’t I think of that! 😛

  10. Kyle says:

    The best security is the invisible kind where you have under covered (armed) cops with concealed carry and you never know where they will exactly be by changing their shift patterns so students intending on shooting it out can’t follow them and figure the weak kinks. Until 9/11 Disneyland never had and still doesn’t need metal detectors they have invisible police. You know those cardboard houses in Toon Town? Chances are they have an undercover officer behind one of them with a secret door only openable from that side.

    Now schools shouldn’t go to the lengths of Disneyland either but the focus should be on people and positive relationships not machines doing the work. Someone at the top should evaluate whether a threat is likely based on other circumstances or just a prank and no further action needed.

    Bad guys NEVER announce their true intentions ahead of time so why listen to fake ones? When a bad guy will bring something to school they are not going to telephone and say “Hi I’m coming in at 9:00 and going to blow up 2nd period in the chemistry lab at Whatever High in RedNeck USA. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeee Haaaaaaaaw! Shoves TNT thru the telephone wire which the TNT comes out the receiving end like in Donald Duck cartoons and explodes in your ear. HA HA HA HA Have fun bozos!” Click beep beep beep.

    No they do not do that. Those are just attention seeking brats thinking they are being funny and want a day off of school and know people will lose their minds cause nobody evaluates threats anymore. They just react.

    If we didn’t react always right away the number of false threats would drop sharply once the suspects figure out they are not getting what they want anymore and wind up going to jail with no reaction from the press other then an informative news blurb by the Associate Press.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Our Newsletters
Campus Safety HQ