Metal Detectors in Schools: What you Should Know


Metal Detectors in Schools: What you Should Know

By Daniel Bernzweig
Table of Contents:

Mass shootings and school shootings have shaken our country in recent years. There have been tragedies involving weapons at Sandy Hook, Arapahoe High School, Virgina Tech, and Columbine. One or more armed offenders forced entry into the school, either as students or as visitors. Mass violence is disturbing, robbing American families of peace of mind. Media coverage of school violence has gained negative press worldwide.

What Are Metal Detectors?

To find metal objects or to identify hidden weapons, metal detectors emit an audible signal when close to the metal. Before choosing school security metal detectors, consider their features and benefits. For high-volume applications the use of metal detectors, like a walk-through metal detector, maybe the best choice. Walk-through detectors can handle high capacity—ensuring that all individuals entering and/or leaving the school buildings are scanned. They provide superior metal discrimination and detection. Most walk-through security detectors automatically eliminate electrical interference so that school or office video monitors don’t set off false alarms.

Why Schools Are Using Metal Detectors?

From New York city to Broward county, Fla the use of school metal detectors is common in large urban areas with a history of violent crimes. A metal detector on school grounds is an effective way to prevent or deter guns and knives from entering a school. A metal detector is just one part of an overall deterrent plan for reducing crime in our nation's schools. School boards must realize that no single strategy can guarantee the eradication of violence in schools. So, what percentage of schools have metal detectors? According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 9 percent of high schools nationwide in 2016 were using metal detectors to screen students upon building entry. The adoption of metal detectors in schools has continued to increase as gun violance continues to rise.

Do Metal Detectors Increase Safety In Schools?

Everyone from educators and school administrators to criminologists and psychiatrists is trying to determine the root cause of escalating mass violence in the United States. So why do schools use metal detectors and what are the pros and cons? Criminal profilers cite theories for motives including bullying, mental illness, media hype, the desire for power, abuse in the home, and lack of spiritual upbringing. Regardless of the cause, the need for security detection devices in schools and public places is becoming evident. Compared to schools without metal detectors, New York City public schools with metal detectors show a reduced number of students carrying weapons (78% vs. 14%). Which leads us to ask, are metal detectors effective at making schools safer? At the end of the day the answer is yes.

What are the Benefits of Security Metal Detectors in Schools?

The most obvious benefit of metal detectors at school entrances is the immediate detection of weapons as students and visitors enter the building. In schools that currently use detectors, students and guests have been stopped with guns and knives. Schools and universities can take proactive steps to prevent tragic incidents by detecting concealed items on visitors. Investigations can also lead to arrests or treatment to prevent future occurrences.

What are the Best Security Metal Detectors for Schools?

There are a variety of walk-through detectors that can be installed in schools based on the needs and budget of the school. These detectors will instantly locate a concealed item, thus serving as a general screening tool for the school. Once the metal target has been identified by the walk-through, a metal detector wand is needed to pinpoint it precisely. 

A multi-zone metal detector is the most common type of modern walk-through metal detector to select. These detectors can pinpoint whether a weapon is hiding on the right or left side of an individual and even pinpoint where it is hidden from head to toe. When scanning high volumes of people, this can be one of the best time-saving school measures to implement.

When to use portable walk-through metal detectors?

Fisher M-Scope portable walk-through metal detectors are a modern option -- they're portable and can be set up in minutes. The result is an extreme level of versatility. The unit can be moved to a location and configured on demand by a single person. A portable walk-through detector would be ideal for outdoor events such as track and field days, sports meets, and games. A portable unit is also ideal for events that move from one location to another, such as performances and assemblies. Relocation can help you maximize your budget.

When to use security metal detector wands?

Once a metal target has been detected by a walk-through metal detector, a hand-held scanning detector is required to pinpoint it. Security wand metal detectors serve this purpose. In low-traffic areas or buildings without the need for walk-through metal detectors, hand-held wands are a popular solution.

What Do Metal Detectors Detect? - Metal Detector Limitations

While metal detectors are accurate in detecting concealed items, they do not detect non-metallic threats, plastics, bombs, etc. Any security technology is only as effective as the human element behind the equipment. An effective security plan is the first step in the process of adding them to your school environment. 

Would metal detectors be effective for repelling school shootings?

A research article entitled “Impacts of Metal Detector Use in School” studies methods of reducing young people’s risk of victimization when they are in school. As a result of this epidemic, a growing number of school districts are installing metal detectors. Researchers studied the impact of metal detectors on school gun violence as well as perceptions about our national school safety. Among the findings: students at schools with metal detector programs were less likely to carry weapons in school. Also, the “school safety climate” increased at many schools, which is the perceived level of security by students. As you prepare for the new school year, it is important to review the incidents over the last year to identify the best plan.

Why don't all schools have metal detectors?

A school’s image is the main reason parents, school leaders and administrators cite as the “con” to having metal detectors. Many parents feel that schools security measures utilizing metal detectors in the learning environment sends out mixed signals about safety. Is it a violent school with a bad reputation or is safety really the issue? Unique considerations must be taken in to account for each level of school from elementary school to middle school or high school. 

Another issue administrators bring up is the cost of staffing metal detection devices. It seems like this debate has now become a moot point. In the wake of tragic incidents at schools, movie theaters, and populated events like the Boston Marathon and the Olympics, protecting people is only logical. The need to disarm a perpetrator trumps any possible negative perception about scanning and searching people. Airports have unequivocally adopted this safety mentality. A common question is can schools have metal detectors? And the short answer is is yes, they can. It can be a positive change and is something that needs to be implemented at the local level. It is a decision that should be made after careful analysis of the local situation and with the input of all of the stake holders in the community. Do metal detectors make sense for your school district? That is a decision that you can answer by getting input from everyone in your district.

What are the pros and cons of installing metal detectors in schools?

A metal detector is one risk-reduction tool that schools can employ to prevent unwanted items from entering during the school day. It is an effective deterrent in a school setting when used as part of a comprehensive plan that includes other proven concepts. For many, it is a personal ethical debate of the pros and cons of using metal detectors in school. Metal detectors for school entrances, movies, and other high-traffic places are debated because of the negative cultural stigma associated with their use. 

Some believe that the presence of metaldetectors and being searched at movie theaters, museums, and libraries is an invasion of their privacy. Those with concealed weapons permits say they should be allowed to protect themselves. For public safety, some states that ban the carrying of firearms require metal detectors in government buildings. While there are many differing views regarding the effective use of security technologies in schools, it is clear that metal detectors are part of the overall solution.

Are there really schools with metal detectors in America?

A growing number of schools and universities are using metal detectors. In fact, the number of schools using them is reaching double digits nationwide. From the Olympic games to a wide variety of educational institutions, metal detectors have become commonplace. As we approach each new school year, the topic comes up in our nation's schools. It is key that schools play their role to help alleviate burdens on local police and our court system. 

What Are Security Checkpoints In Schools For?

A well-thought-out security plan should include security checkpoints. Santa Fe ISD has added security checkpoints including metal detectors as part of their safety measures program. Controlling building access, installing video security cameras, working with local law enforcement, staff identification, and having a crisis response plan in place are all important items to have in place. Setting up a plan for scanning individuals with hand-held metal detector can be a positive change. By hand searching backpacks at check points schools can bring a sense of well-being to the community. 

How much does it cost to install metal detectors in schools?

The cost of popular walk through metal detectors starts at just under $4,000. Hand-held security wands are priced under $200.  When budgeting your resources, it is important to keep in mind that there are several costs associated with the use of metal detectors. You will need to budget for the physical hardware and the related costs associated with training security officers and staffing them with security personnel.  Obviously, you would not have to worry about this extra expense if you have a school resource officer or unarmed security guard on staff already. If need be, school officials can supplement their staffing needs with local security services as well. 

© 2014 Detector Electronics Corp. - Revised October 16, 2021