DCPS: Metal detectors at Jacksonville high schools won't be used daily

Board approves buying 2 walk-through detectors for each high school

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County Public Schools will be adding two portable, walk-through metal detectors at each high school, but officials said the devices won't be used every day.

The Duval County School Police Department presented a proposal Tuesday suggesting the walk-through detectors would only be used in the event of a threat against the school that can't be resolved before students and staff arrive on campus.

The School Board approved the proposal, allowing the district to move forward with applying for a grant to fund the metal detectors.

Duval County Public Schools officials had already said high schools would be getting metal detectors before next school year.

Duval County School Police Director Micheal Edwards said his staff recently walked through several of the county’s 22 high schools. 

"Looking at the number of entrances that school staff and students utilize to come into the school and as a result of that we felt very comfortable that at most of our schools that two portable, walk-through metal detectors would be appropriate," Edwards said.

The School Board also approved purchasing 10 queuing stanchions for each of the high schools, along with screening equipment, including tables, metal detector covers and items baskets.

READ: Proposal from Duval County School Police on metal detectors

It's unclear when the detectors would be bought and installed, but installation and training on using them will be done on a school-by-school basis. They should be ready to use by the start of next school year.

Administrators will be trained on the detectors and will be responsible for using them. School police will not handle the walk-through detectors but will be on hand when they're used so they can confiscate any weapons or other prohibited items found, officials said. When they’re not in use, the detectors, which will be battery powered, will be stored in a private location within the school. 

All high schools will eventually have both walk-through metal detectors and handheld metal detectors. The high schools currently have metal detector wands, but many are old or don't work anymore.

Assistant Chief Wayne Clark said the district is purchasing more handheld detectors so high schools will now all have the same kind, and they’ll be newer models. Schools will continue to do random searches with those.

"It will be known that they can be searched at any time and state law allows there to be random administrative searches like this unannounced at any time they deem appropriate," Clark said.

The handheld detectors should start arriving at the beginning of 2019. The funding for the 322 new handheld detectors being bought was already in the district budget. 

The deadline to apply for grant money to pay for the walk-through detectors is Dec. 1. The district is expecting to receive about $4.4 million from the grant. Among the county's 22 high schools is one alternative school, which was getting a new walk-through metal detector that will be paid for by district funds. So only 21 high schools are included in the new plan that will be covered by the grant.

Officials previously said more random checks with the handheld detectors will be conducted, including when students get out of cars and off the bus before school. Charter schools will get about $500,000 of that leaving Duval County with around $4 million, which will cover the cost of the walk-through detectors and the equipment that goes with them.

The district said the handheld detectors are already used at football games and will continue to be, along with bringing in the walk-through detectors for athletic events to speed up the process.

In addition to the two walk-through devices at each school, the Police Department will also have two of its own that can be brought to any school when needed.

Adding additional safety equipment to schools has been a hot-button topic in Northeast Florida. Mandarin High School was evacuated twice in one week -- once because of a bomb threat and then again the next day because of a shooting threat.

Threat data

The Duval County School Police Department's presentation Tuesday included data about firearms and weapons incidents at Jacksonville high schools and how many arrests had been made in those cases. Some of the incidents ended with multiple arrests.

DCSP also included information on how many threat assessments had been done at Jacksonville high schools in the last few school years, and how many of those involved bomb threats.

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