Metal Detectors — Yea or Nay?

I’m hearing whispers about a group of Highland Park High School parents who want the district to install permanent walk-through metal detectors at the doors. Anybody out there think this is a good idea?

By Dan Koller Mar. 25, 2013 | 10:00 am | 33 Comments | Comments RSS
  • mk

    This HPHS mom does and more importantly, she asks the question, “why is the school not taking the recommendations of Chief Adams?” Inquiring minds want to know…
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/pamela-kripke/ammunition-found-in-wealt_b_2924538.html

  • HP mom

    Why haven’t they already put them in? Is it true that they are not following all advice from the UP police? If true, why not?

  • http://www.parkcitiespeople.com Dan Koller

    Did I say whispers? I meant a bullhorn. I’ve called Chief Gary Adams to hear his take on the issue, unfiltered.

  • Kersten Rettig

    I hope to God they don’t install metal detectors and will onject vehemently to installing them. I would like to know exactly what law enformcement recommends in that regard. I’ve heard that there is a minority of parents at HPHS who want them and are making threats that if the school doesn’t install metal detectors, they are going to the national media with stories about HP’s negligence in the matter. That sounds like bullying to me.

  • mom

    Well written article. Thanks for the link. Really makes you pause a bit. Without seeing the threat texts it is hard to know if it’s scary or not.

    I personally am not scared. I think we live in a fragile society where safety is hard to guarantee. I trust Chief Adams, however, and I’d do whatever he suggested.

  • Nfw

    Ok, I’ll bite. Why would you vehemently object to metal detectors? They send the wrong message? Violence couldn’t happen here? Given what I’ve seen and heard lately about our community and the actions of some of our children (and parents), what makes us think that our glorious little bubble is any different from the rest of the world? Yes, there are great people here, but do we really believe an extra layer of security is not warranted given our school was recently in lockdown?

  • mom

    I would not mind a metal detector in every door, and a breathalyzer in every car ignition.

    I failed to mention that I also really trust our super Dr. Orr.

  • mk

    I have seen a threat text(a screen shot from the text sent on 3/20) and it was seriously creepy and extremely specific. I don’t know why the school thinks that walk-thru metal detectors “send the wrong image”, as was stated in an email to parents…as one mom just stated to me, maybe that would feel a bit too “ghetto”(a kid’s term, not the mom’s)for our district? As the article states, a town meeting, open to all parents, would go a long way towards ending speculation and filling in the information gaps.

  • CW

    +1 Kersten Rettig

  • XT

    “You can never be too safe”.

    I guess, but where does it end?
    It would be safer to have guards at every entrance
    It would be safer to lock all of the doors
    It would be safer to have guards roaming the halls
    It would be safer to have random locker checks
    It would be safer to have random pat downs.

    What are the statistics? What are the odds of something happening? Would a metal detector have stopped Columbine, Newtown, etc.? Rather than whispers and scare tactics and one mans opinion (just because he is chief of police of UP doesn’t mean he’s right), why not an informed discussion, and vote?

  • JustAnOpinion007

    A metal detector would have picked up the box of bullets and the “crime” solved or mostly solved if there were more than one culprit. Safe is always better than sorry. I send my kid and soon-to-be kids to HPHS and I expect them to do EVERYTHING necessary to keep them safe during school. And who really deems it’s safe after a threatening text is received? Is it safe to continue…so far it has. It takes that one time for someone to say, “We should have done [insert action here] before it came to this.” I didn’t grow up in the bubble and my school was a 6 on a ‘ghetto’ scale of 1-10 but we never had these issue like I’ve seen in the bubble. But I’m also a different generation than the skewed one(s) we have now.

  • Ocho

    Where does it end? It either ends with a bunch of students getting shot, or it ends with a few simple pragmatic measures being taken to make the first ending a lot less likely. Schools are high value soft targets for psychopaths. I can’t believe school districts are not getting sued left and right over the total lack of security they provide for the kids that we entrust them with. Lock the dang doors, check for weapons, hire a security guard.

  • HPHS mammy

    Let’s defer to law enforcement and security experts on this issue. Parents of high schoolers have a million more pressing matters to manage that are highly more statistically probable than a random shooter episode. For instance, underage drinking and drug use, promiscuity, cheating in school, eating disorders, depression, etc. Pamela Kripke is a loose cannon and the Huffington Post is a dubious media source. I say – let the experts in law enforcement and education decide how best to protect students and if parents disagree, they can wrap their children in bubble wrap and home school them.

  • XT

    http://www.psychlawjournal.com/2012/12/school-shootings-what-are-odds.html

    Here are some facts. To be clear, I’m neither for or against metal detectors. I’d be open to hearing some facts on the efficacy of metal detectors, but so far, the line of reasoning for them seems to be “what can it hurt?”, and, a box of bullets woulnd’t have been found.

  • cynthia

    As the mom of a couple of kids in the middle school who will soon be going through the doors, I think “no.” I don’t think it’s too “ghetto” as one commentator questioned above. But I want my children’s school to be a place where they feel comfortable, curious, interested, excited and happy. I know that the threats have been extremely stressful and I am not looking forward to having my kids crouched under desks on lockdowns. But metal detectors don’t fix the issue. It’s easy enough to target football games or find other entrances. I would rather not be perfectly protected and have multiple doors and no metal detectors than to be not perfectly protected with two entrances and metal detectors.

  • mk

    @HPHS mammy: While I agree with you that underage drinking and the other issues you mentioned are urgent matters that our kids are dealing with on a daily basis, I disagree with your comment that “Pamela Kripke is a loose cannon and the HuffPo a dubious media source.” Seriously? HuffPo gets an average of 36-50 million unique visitors per month and Ms. Kripke wasn’t posting a news story, but an editorial on what’s happening at HPHS with the security issues, based on her personal conversations with Chief Adams and her experience as an HPHS parent. I don’t think it’s fair to call another district parent a “loose cannon” simply because she is an accomplished writer who published her opinion, especially when she used her name and you’re not willing to. Just something to think about.

  • Neal

    A metal detector will be nothing more than security theater, just like the body scanners and shoe-sniffers at the airport. Clearly, a belief to the contrary is taking hold among a subset of bored, easily excitable helicopter parents and soon we will hear that anyone who opposes them hates children and wants them to die.

    I’ll to say (or type) what everyone already knows: If someone wants to shoot up a school, that person will hit the weak points. Metal detectors will simply move those weak points to the doors.

    P.S. The Huffington Post is not a reliable source. They give succor to anti-vaccine wackos, among other things.

  • Ray

    XT is right, Metal detectors wouldn’t have picked up the ammunition left behind in the HPHS bathroom. Metal detectors work by inducing a magnetic field in ferrous metals, and then sensing the resulting field. Ammunition are composed of: copper, lead, brass, smokeless gunpowder and a primer which does have some ferrous metal but its minimal. The primers only weigh a few grams, and only about 1/2 of its mass is metal. Medal detectors aren’t going to catch non matallic weaponary like Carbon Fiber Knives for example, yes, they can be made and are just as sharp as regular cutlery. Personally, I think people need to lay of the cable news which is know for sensationalizing horrific events and take a break from dobious websites. All this talk of metal detectors has me thinking about buying one and finding me a beach.

  • kevin

    I think the Chief should clarify if he really thinks metal detector installation will have any effect on his ability to “know” if there’s a weapon in the school or “guarantee the safety” of people in the building. It would be good to know if he’s as clueless and alarmist as the HuffPo “journalist” or just a little misguided as to whether there’s any point at all in using metal detectors…

  • XT

    More facts:

    “School shootings have declined dramatically over the past few decades, even as attacks such as those at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 and Scotland’s Dunblane Primary School in 1996 have loomed large in our imaginations. The early 1990s were among the worst years for school killings, as gang-related incidents “spilled over into schools,” Fox said.

    After reaching a high of 63 deaths in the 2006-2007 school year, the number of people killed in “school-associated” incidents dropped to 33 in 2009-2010 – the lowest in two decades, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

    While a few dozen children are killed each year in school, statistically speaking it remains the safest place a child will likely ever be, with the lowest chance of being killed. “When you consider the fact that there are over 50 million schoolchildren in America, the chances are over 1 in 2 million, not a high probability,” Fox said. “And most cases that do occur are in high schools and less so in middle schools – and hardly ever in elementary schools.”

    Such shootings make up only a “small fraction” of incidents, said Dewey Cornell, director of the University of Virginia’s Youth Violence Project.

    “We must be careful not to let the enormity of this tragedy affect our perception of the safety of our schools,” Cornell said. “Violence is far more common outside of schools than in schools.”

    Source: Article from Tampa News Station WTSP

  • Hp

    Of course somehow HP lunch-bunch moms find a way to bring in drinking. That has gone on forever, and will not stop. Focus on the more prevalent issue

  • HPHS mammy

    @Hp – you condescending little twit. The more prevalent, imminent and real risk to high school students everywhere is drinking, depression, cutting, cheating, promiscuity,and, with kids like you, a potentially fatal case of entitlement.

  • Parkie

    No metal detectors!
    All of the notes and emails are hoaxes.
    Please, no.

  • Avid Reader

    Of course an HP student finds their way to the blog to try and make a laughable dig at HP parents because teenagers are always so much smarter than adults.

  • XT

    Maybe we should get a note detector…

  • rd

    A metal detector primarily exists for the sole purpose of convincing you that you are being protected from “someone else” and that there is “someone else” that you need protection from. I doubt many people feel safe when they walk through security at an airport, primarily because the indicated purpose of a security checkpoint is because enemies unknown are trying to kill them.

    The world around here is already a pretty safe place to be and generally trends towards safer year over year. I, personally, do not see a need to place subtle messages at school entrances that the world is a place to be feared. (Not just “for the children”- adults respond the same way, emotionally.) So, yes, there is such as thing as too much security.

  • Hp

    @avid reader, HPHS mammy- I’m quite perplexed why the subject of drive use, cheating, and drinking were brought up when the clear subject of this discussion revolves around metal detectors. Considering a majority of parents whose children attend the high school care, how can you blame them for voicing their opinions?

  • Student

    @HPHS Mammy are you saying that drinking, depression, cutting, cheating, promiscuity and entitlement are more prevalent risks to HP students then a bomb in the school or a shooting? Because I would adamantly disagree. I also don’t think that you are considering the emotional toll that these events have had on the students of HP. Metal detectors would go a long way in reinforcing a sense of safety at our school. Also, it seems to me that you’re argument against detectors is in reality the best one for them. If you’re worried about drunk depressed teens roaming the hallways of HP I would think that you would be all for metal detectors and any other measures that can be taken to protect HP students.

  • XT

    @ Student,

    Yes, I would say that drinking and depression are more prevalent risks. The data would support that. That is not specific to HP, but to all schools everywhere. How many teenagers and innocent victims are killed by drunk drivers ? (although declining, still well over 1,000 a year) How many suicides are there in high schools every year ? (~5,000 suicides in the 10-24 age group per year). Cutting, cheating, promiscuity and entitlement, while unfortunate, are dangerous in different ways.

    That being said, I don’t know what metal detectors has to do with the other issues listed, two unrelated topics.

  • Avid Reader

    @Hp, Be as perplexed as you want; I didn’t bring up any of the other topics you mention, just made a comment about how students love to jump on the blog and fire off very well thought out and original digs (“lunch-bunch moms”) at community members/parents who are on the blog discussing community issues. That said, I’ll answer for HPHS mammy; the metal detectors are the subject of this thread, they are being discussed in relation to safety of students…not a real big jump to bring up other safety related items.

  • HPHS mammy

    @Avid, thanks. To XT and Student, my point is that as parents and members of the community and, in fact, society at large, we have to constantly assess the risks we face and mitigate them. Installing metal detectors at HPHS is the topic as some people think that is the proper way to mitigate risk of a shooting or stabbing at that school. Statistically, the risk of those acts happening at HPHS are considerably less than the risk of kids ages 14-19 drinking, drugging, etc. As a parent and a member of the community, I would rather address more imminent risks than a random shooting act. And “student” there are plenty of drunk depressed teens roaming the halls of HPHS already. They are more likely to harm themselves than random people.

  • XT

    Mammy, I was agreeing with your assessment that those things are more dangerous than mass shootings, individual deaths, and drinking/ drugs.

    After looking at the facts, I now do not believe that metal detectors are a solution, because frankly, they try to solve a problem that is statistically highly improbable. If we were in an inner city, and fighting knives and guns being in school, fighting, etc, I might feel differently.

    But, there is no need in my mind to even bring the other issues into the discussion; I came to my opinion not based on the relative rank of school shootings on the spectrum, but rather the absolute lack of threat. Whether we spend money on education on the other issues is an entirely different (though useful) discussion.

  • Parkie

    I was up at HPHS today around lunch time. I suggest all parents who are in favor of detectors spend a few minutes at the Westchester entrance between 4th and 5th lunch. It’s a bustling, but calm scene, as the students come and go, just the way it should be. There is a police officer and security personnel watching. I think metal detectors would be a huge mistake.

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