Concerned parents and students gathered in front of the Laurel County School Board Wednesday morning to protest the district’s decision to not install metal detectors. In response to protests and backlash, Laurel County Superintendent Doug Bennett issued a statement for parents. He said in part, “While metal detectors may be a future option, among many, to consider, it may not be the best at this time. There are several major concerns that must be addressed to make metal detectors a viable safety and security option. Before we implement any safety measure we want to make sure that first, it does no harm. Significant safety issues need to be addressed before simply installing metal detectors in schools. At this time, the most effective way to allocate contributions would be to apply those donations to the funding of additional School Resource Officer Staff.” Meanwhile, Knox County Schools are going ahead with installation of metal detectors. Knox County Schools Public Information Officer Frank Shelton said the school board made the decision to purchase detectors after seeing the community support for the idea.
Here’s the letter Laurel County Superintendent Doug Bennett issued in it’s entirety:
We know many are understandably concerned about the safety of your child in light of the recent events across the country. We want you to know our number one priority is the safety of our students and staff. We want to communicate some of the plans that are in place to secure the safety of your child. Laurel County Schools work closely with local, state law enforcement and other school safety and security experts to ensure students are as safe as possible. In addition to the partnership with law enforcement agencies and school security experts, our school district has a security consultant. As a result, staff including our security staff, receive special training to provide a safe and educational environment for our students.
-All schools practice lockdown drills throughout the year.
-In partnership with the City of London Police Department the district contracts to provide School Resource Officers. These officers are on duty in the schools daily.
-Each school has real-time contact with 911 dispatch services.
-Trained Security Officers are employed in the district.
-Laurel County Schools has in place an ongoing security committee that includes school administrators, school resource officers, security consultants, mental health professionals, and law enforcement representatives who review concerns and identify opportunities to improve student safety. Special teams visit schools throughout the district to evaluate and discuss ways to improve safety in that facility.
-Our school system conducts routine School Safety Reviews.
-Teachers, support staff, principals, the superintendent, and other school district personnel meet regularly using an all hazards approach to school safety and security. The committee works diligently to ensure student and staff safety. Any threat or concern reported by a student is taken seriously and is immediately addressed and investigated.
School safety is too important to ignore facts.Metal detectors have been considered by some as a way to help ensure school and student safety. While metal detectors may be a future option, among many, to consider, it may not be the best at this time. There are several major concerns that must be addressed to make metal detectors a viable safety and security option. Before we implement any safety measure we want to make sure that first, it does no harm. Significant safety issues need to be addressed before simply installing metal detectors in schools:
-Comprehensive metal detector and screening procedure will only be effective with a comprehensive supportive plan and trained personnel.
-The average time reported by metal detector screening experts to screen students through this process is 2 minutes.
-Our average high school enrollment is 1,200 students. It would take approximately 40 hours for all 1200 students to safely and properly be screened and checked through the detector process. An average time of only 30 seconds per student to go through the screening process would be 10 hours. As a result, students would be lined up outside the building in groups waiting to get in.
-Harsh weather conditions also are a concern. As a result, hundreds of students would be grouped together outside the building and would be vulnerable to a multitude of threats both as a large group in a slow moving line and individually.
-The number of trained staff required to effectively operate a metal detector and screening area is approximately 5-7 teachers/staff with at least one staff member per screening station having police powers in the event a weapon or dangerous instrument were detected.
-We would need to ensure that we had a metal detection and screening process in operation at all schools with adequate staff and support – as opposed to only placing them at select schools. We have consulted experts in school security across the nation in regards to metal detectors and other safety security practices.
In addition to the above concerns, according to the discussion with Mr. Jon Akers, the Executive Director for The Kentucky Center For School Safety the following statements were made:
a. The best way to spend limited funds on school safety is to “hire a cop”. Mr. Akers commented that the use of SRO’s in schools were the best way to combat school violence for a number of reasons. SRO’s made contact with students on a regular basis, they observed changes in students, spoke to teachers and were there as a three-pronged entity…teacher, counselor, and law enforcement. The mere presence of these folks are a deterrent to school violence.
b. His opinion on metal detectors was mixed at best. He stated that he has seen instances where metal detectors created a large delay in entering the building, thus creating a lot of students gathered outside which made them potentially bigger targets. He also stated that each detector had to “manned” by a law enforcement officer due to the fact if something did turn up, there was a good chance they would have to be disarmed. Another consideration was that there is no surprise factor; he did not know of an instance when a detector actually caught a potential school shooter. His comment was he did not think someone who planned on shooting up a school would stand in line and go through a metal detector.
c. There is also a cultural consideration in that metal detectors give off a certain vibe in that the school doesn’t trust their students and it is no longer a safe place.
d. The time issue is also something to be considered in that it takes a good while to do the metal detectors properly in that belt buckles, shoes, etc set the devices off and if they go off, you have to check it out completely, thus holding up the line.
e. Metal Detectors are not failsafe. Kids can bring things in through side doors, kids can be tardy, check–in, check out. There are many variables to prepare for. It is important not to look at school safety myopically. All things must be considered.
-Therefore, until the above mentioned concerns can be addressed, metal detectors would not be the safest option for our students at this time.
We as a district welcome and appreciate the outpouring of support, concern and desire to assist. However, it would not be in the best interest of students to haphazardly implement any plan with half-measures. We are, however, working on a comprehensive logistics plan with experts in the field of metal detecting and security screening to determine if it is possible to overcome the additional risks associated with metal detectors as advised by experts in the field.
At this time, the contributions would be best served to increase our School Resource Officer Staff. Please contact us at 606-862-4600 for anyone interested in assisting.
We are always looking at ways to improve security and ways to establish a safer school environment. We also need assistance from you the parent or guardian. Here are some things you may do to assist your child and school.
-Talk and discuss with your child their concerns daily, listen to what is going on in their lives.
-Monitor your child’s access to social media, video games, and TV.
-Remind your child that they are loved and have a support system at home and at school of people who love them and want what is best for them.
-If your child is displaying signs of anxiety or acting in an alarming manner, reach out for help. Your school’s guidance counselor and Family Resource/Youth Service Centers are there for assistance, along with your child’s principals and teachers. We are a family and when faced with difficult decisions, we are at our best when we work together.
Finally, I want to express my sincere appreciation that you allow your child to come to one our schools each day. We, the Laurel County School District family, do not take that responsibility lightly. We know every child is a gift who should be loved and protected. Let us all work together to keep our students safe, and allow them to thrive to have a successful and prosperous future.
At this time, the most effective way to allocate contributions would be to apply those donations to the funding of additional School Resource Officer Staff.
We greatly appreciate the genorosity of many in the community. We want to make sure that the contributions have the greatest impact on improving student safety. We look forward to working together to do what is best for our children.
Doug Bennett, EdD
Laurel County School District