A shooting at an Atlanta middle school Thursday has prompted
questions about the effectiveness of metal detectors as a school
Price Middle School has metal detectors. But its not clear if the
shooter a 15-year-old student there, according to police went
through a detector Thursday. He allegedly shot and wounded a 14-
year-old student in a courtyard where students were moving between
classes, and then was disarmed by an armed resource officer and
taken into custody.
The courtyard is accessible from outside the school, but the
alleged shooter had arrived at school earlier in the day, an Atlanta
Public Schools spokeswoman says.
The Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Conn., prompted an
examination of school safety nationwide and calls for more armed
security in schools, and Thursdays incident may bolster supporters
of that approach.
There has not been a corresponding spike in interest in metal
detectors, says Bill Bond, school safety specialist for the National
Association of Secondary School Principals. When someone arrives at
a school already shooting, he notes, a metal detector would make no
Metal detectors are not practical for every school, but they are
appropriate when you have an ongoing situation with weapons coming
into school, Mr. Bond says. Still, theyre no more effective than the
people running them are.
Even with good efforts by security officials, he says, 100
percent of the weapons wont be kept out by metal detectors. If a
student wants to beat the system, students are smart enough to know
how to beat the system and bypass that entrance with the metal
detector, he says.
At a Friday afternoon press conference, Atlanta school and police
officials said that the weapon was a small handgun and that it
appeared at least three rounds were fired. They were investigating
the possibility that the shooter and victim may have been part of
groups that had gang affiliations.
They were also still investigating whether the metal detectors at
Price were working and what screening of students was performed on
Thursday. In general, principals set the policy, and administrators
and staff who monitor the screening process are all trained,
Metal detectors are most common in urban school districts. About
12 percent of high schools, 9 percent of middle schools, and 2
percent of primary schools in the United States did random checks
with metal detectors in 2009-10, according to a survey of school
principals reported by the National Center for Education Statistics.
Fewer than 2 percent of middle schools and 5 percent of high schools
required students to pass through metal detectors daily.
School systems considering using metal detectors have to weigh
carefully both the costs and the philosophical debates about whether
metal detectors belong in schools at all.
Its not the metal detectors themselves, but the manpower hours
that cost a lot.
Detectors can be purchased for about $5,000. But a report by the
US Department of Justice in 1999 noted that New York City had to
fund 100 additional security-officer hours per week for each school
that screened for weapons with metal detectors. …