Metal Detectors: A Knee-Jerk Response To School Violence?


School shootings like the one that scarred Cleveland’s Success- Tech Academy this month generally produce short-term calls for metal detectors, armed security officers, and surveillance cameras – tangible solutions that soothe parents’ fears and quiet noisy politicians. The Cleveland Plain Dealer says the long-term effect of school violence is more difficult to address. Some schools that survive violent attacks suffer high staff turnover. Those teachers who stay jump every time a car backfires. Some schools observe the anniversary of the event. Others go far to avoid remembering.

Everyone agrees that nothing will ever be the same and that the schools where tragedies occur must be prepared to deal with the events for a long, long time. “You want to get to a ‘new’ normal. There is no ‘old’ normal anymore,” says Larry Macaluso, retired superintendent of the Red Lion Pa., Area School District, where a student in 2003 shot and killed his principal before taking his own life. “There’s an enormous amount of pressure on school officials when something like this happens,” says Kenneth Trump, a Cleveland-based school safety consultant. “They feel they need to do something and do something fast. In reality, that can lead to knee-jerk decisions.” In Cleveland, schools Chief Executive Eugene Sanders said metal detectors and airport-style X-ray machines were expected in all 111 schools within weeks. Officials say the screening equipment will cost $3.3 million. Sanders is asking the school board to spend $3.7 million on 50 full-time armed security guards to patrol schools and up to 150 part-time guards to operate metal detectors.


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