Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Metal Detector: The Idea Held Danger in '93

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Metal Detector: The Idea Held Danger in '93

Article excerpt

LIFE IS FULL of little ironies.

Take, for example, the St. Louis public schools.

When St. Louis high school students start school on Thursday, many of them will find something besides new paint and brightly decorated bulletin boards.

The first thing they'll be met with when they enter their school buildings will be newly installed, walk-through metal detectors.

A sad sign of the times, the detectors are being placed at the entrances of each of the city's 12 high schools in an effort to keep out guns, knives and other such weapons.

St. Louis isn't unique in this: A survey earlier this year found that 70 percent of the nation's 50 largest school districts use metal detectors.

But the irony of all of this is that when a suggestion was made a year and a half ago that metal detectors be installed in the city's schools, school officials became, well, I guess hysterical might not be too strong a word.

Let me refresh your memory. Back in February of last year, the campaign for mayor of St. Louis was in full swing. The office was up for grabs because Mayor Vince Schoemehl had chosen not to seek a fourth term. A bevy of candidates sought the post, and each candidate competed for the public's attention at the time.

One of those candidates, aldermanic president Tom Villa, held a news conference at Vashon High School. Vashon had seen an increase in crime, and Villa wanted to talk about what he thought could be done to make schools and neighborhoods safer.

At the press conference, Villa pushed for the installation of metal detectors in schools. He also announced that a local company wanted to donate an airport-style metal detector to the public school system.

Villa had gotten the permission of an old friend, then-Principal Cozy Marks, to hold the news conference at the school. But Marks - who had favored the use of the detectors - later found himself in the middle of a controversy.

Angered that Marks would suggest that St. Louis public schools might be well-served by the use of metal detectors, school officials immediately punished him. Marks - whom one education observer calls "probably the best principal in the entire system" - was yanked from Vashon and placed as principal of the Continuing Education Program, the school for pregnant girls. …

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