Should schools have metal detectors?

Superintendent, sheriff, parents weigh in on debate on how to keep students safe

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three guns found in separate incidents at three different Duval County schools Wednesday has sparked a debate about ways to keep students safe, and some parents have suggested metal detectors. 

This week's incidents brought the total number to nine guns, including one starter pistol, found at Duval County schools since the school year began, according to district officials. Lockdowns also seem to have become a weekly occurrence in the city.

RELATED: I-TEAM details students found with guns on campus

While school police use metal detectors to search bags, students do not have to walk-through them to get to class.

On Friday, Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams and parents all weighed in about the possibility of the added security measure. 

News4Jax posted a poll on its Facebook page and website, asking "Should metal detectors be in local schools?"

Hundreds of parents responded, the majority in favor of walk-thought metal detectors. Others sounded off against them, saying they're a bad idea. 

The superintendent said school police are doing extra security searching on campus. Still, some parents don't think that's enough, saying they want to see even more safety measures.

"They probably need metal detectors, just to make sure that the kids are not bringing anything that is unsafe to schools," said concerned parent Cherterel Bolton.

Bolton, a mother of two sons in Duval County Public Schools, said she's worried about the number of weapons and the amount of violence on campus. 

"When you get a phone call, saying the school is on lockdown, you are in panic by then. You don't know what is going to happen to your child," Bolton said. 

Vitti, who was a dean in New York City where school officials used detectors on students, said he doesn't think they'll solve the problems in Northeast Florida.

"The metal detector was not a silver bullet," Vitti said. "The last thing I want is a school to feel like a prison."

RELATED: Vitti responds after 3 gun incidents in 1 day

Both Vitti and Williams said a lot comes down to parenting and community involvement. 

"Parents, make sure you know who your kids are with, you know what your kids are doing," Williams said. 

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith, who was a school resource officer for six years, said detectors at schools would have their pros and cons. 

"If this trend continues, and if the numbers increase, it may be something that they have to look at," Smith said. "That would be a tremendous expense to do for every school in the system."

For now, Smith, said parents and peers are the first line of defense.

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