4 Reasons to Add Metal Detectors to a School Budget
Here's what the research says about the use of metal detectors in schools.
With another school year behind us, many school districts will close out their fiscal year at the end of June (Agency, 2023). Parents and many educators may feel they’re out-of-the-loop when it comes to school budgets, but one item of importance to teachers and parents alike is school safety. For many people traveling during the summer months, passing through a metal detector at an airport will be routine and trigger a commonly-asked question: why don’t we require all schools to use metal detectors? Well, here are four reasons to consider adding metal detectors to a school budget if they’re not already included.
1) Metal Detectors Can Reduce Weapons on Campus. In a 2018 study of two of the largest school districts in the country, researchers found that random metal detector searches, “reduced the likelihood that students brought weapons to school,” (Bhatt & Davis, 2018). The study compared Miami-Dade County Schools that had implemented a random metal detector search policy with neighboring Broward County Schools that had not.
2) Metal Detectors Can Reduce Drugs and Vapes on Campus. The same study (Bhatt & Davis, 2018) also found that students in Miami-Dade schools were 21% less likely to be offered drugs after implementation of the random metal detector searches. In Greenville County, South Carolina, the district’s mobile metal detection system uncovered 296 vapes in just the first two months of the school year (Shadrix, 2022).
3) The School Safety Allotment Has Been Increased. During the 88th Texas Legislative Session, both chambers passed HB 3 which increases the school safety allotment 28 cents and includes a $15,000 per-campus allotment (Education Bills Passed by the 88th Texas Legislature | Texas Association of School Administrators, n.d.). These are funds that may be used for metal detectors among other school safety improvements. Notably, the bill also requires districts to have at least one armed security officer per campus.
4) Communication is Key. While one study found that students feel less safe at schools that have metal detectors (Gastic, 2011), the author noted, “This may be due to how students interpret the use of metal detectors (p. 495). This means communicating the purpose of metal detector searches will be critical ahead of implementing or updating such policies. There is a larger education issue addressed in the same study that found schools with higher Black and Latino student populations were more likely to have metal detectors.
Metal detectors are but one of many tools schools can use to keep students and staff safe. Dr. Ken Trump, President of National School Safety and Security Services, reminds parents and educators that metal detectors are not a guarantee of school safety (“School Metal Detectors,” n.d.). There are questions of costs, staffing, protocols, and training that need to be addressed, but time invested in answering these questions can save lives.
Agency, T. E. (2023, May 18). Fiscal Year Start Date. Texas Education Agency. https://tea.texas.gov/finance-and-grants/financial-compliance/fiscal-year-start-date
Bhatt, R., & Davis, T. (2018). The Impact of Random Metal Detector Searches on Contraband Possession and Feelings of Safety at School. Educational Policy, 32(4), 569–597. https://doi.org/10.1177/0895904816673735
Education Bills Passed by the 88th Texas Legislature | Texas Association of School Administrators. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2023, from https://tasanet.org/education-bills-passed-by-the-88th-texas-legislature/
Gastic, B. (2011). Metal Detectors and Feeling Safe at School. Education and Urban Society, 43(4), 486–498. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013124510380717
School Metal Detectors. (n.d.). School Security. Retrieved June 11, 2023, from https://www.schoolsecurity.org/trends/school-metal-detectors/
Shadrix, S. (2022, October 25). Greenville County Schools weapon detection system uncovers more than weapons. WYFF. https://www.wyff4.com/article/greenville-county-schools-vapes-weapon-detection/41758884