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Four Palm Beach County high schools test metal detectors | #schoolsaftey


Palm Beach County Public Schools is stepping up security measures by implementing metal detectors at four high schools in the county.

The district is currently testing out high-tech, artificial intelligence-infused metal detectors at John I. Leonard in Greenacres, Seminole Ridge in Loxahatchee, Palm Beach Lakes High in West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens High through the summer school program.

Abigail Hasebroock

John I. Leonard High School is one of four high schools being used for the pilot program. The other four are: Seminole Ridge in Loxahatchee, Palm Beach Lakes High in West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens High.

Until Aug. 10, when the 2023-24 school year starts and the official pilot program officially begins, the test schools will be in a training phase.

On May 10, the Palm Beach County School Board agreed to commit as much as $2.25 million to install metal detectors in all high schools for next school year, if the pilot program in the four chosen schools is successful.

So far, metal detector use in the schools is running rather seamlessly, said Sarah Mooney, the schools’ chief of police.

At Leonard High, summer school begins promptly at 7:30 a.m. Administration unlocks a fence separating the students from the outside of the school to the inside, and they begin filing in, each walking through the metal detector.

John L. Leonard High School is one of four high schools in Palm Beach County being used to test out metal detectors for the 2023-24 school year.

Abigail Hasebroock

John L. Leonard High School is one of four high schools in Palm Beach County being used to test out metal detectors for the 2023-24 school year.

Cassandra Morgan, the school’s dean, stands by and wishes each student a good morning. At least a dozen students remove laptops from their backpacks or bags before walking through the metal detectors, as those could set off a red light and a buzzing alarm.

The students carry the same demeanor as any high school student who is not particularly enthralled about starting the school day — especially during the summer. The metal detector does not seem to faze them.

Metal detector wands are on standby at John I. Leonard High School on June 29, 2023. If the metal detectors catch something that is not in the student's bag, then the wands might be employed.

Abigail Hasebroock

Metal detector wands are on standby at John I. Leonard High School on June 29, 2023. If the metal detectors catch something that is not in the student’s bag, then the wands might be employed.

The sensitivity of metal detectors may be altered, Mooney said, and the district’s goal was to find a sweet spot where the technology won’t cause clogs as students try to get into school but will still detect anything that could potentially be dangerous.

“We’re looking for guns, that’s our priority,” Mooney said.

Beyond weapons, large three-ring binders and large umbrellas could activate the device.

Mooney and Morgan are hopeful that the mere presence of the metal detectors will discourage students from even trying to bring weapons to school.

Morgan said she thinks the first few days of this upcoming school year will have some students turning back around once they see the metal detectors.

In 2022, the district reported 204 instances of finding more serious weapons.

In neighboring Broward County, there were 113 instances of major weapons brought to campus, which included five firearms and 64 large knives, and 300 instances of weapons considered less dangerous, from small knives to fireworks.

Palm Beach County parents are generally welcoming to the new measure, but concerns from experts linger over whether metal detectors are actually effective at keeping schools and their students safe or if they only create the perception of safety.

“We tried to pick the system that was least intrusive to the current systems,” Mooney said. “You go through metal detectors at the airport, at other sporting events, things like that, so it’s not like it’s out of this world, it’s not unusual for people to have to go through a metal detector.”

Once school starts, though, the number of students entering the campus will significantly rise. Leonard High will have three metal-detector spots, and Mooney is optimistic that this training period will prepare students and faculty for smooth operations in the fall.

“My best hope is that after at least the first week or so, that the students and the parents realize that, ‘What if we get to school a little bit earlier, and we’re not pushing the clock coming in the door,’ then we’re going to be able to eliminate some of those delays,” she said.

In the future, Mooney said they may also use the metal detectors for after-school extracurriculars and football games. Each weighs about 25 pounds and has wheels, making them easily transportable, she said.

“We don’t want it feeling like a prison,” she said. “We want it to just be something that’s going to help everybody be a little safer on the campuses.”



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