The Madison School Board is set to adopt a new proposal Monday that would permit random, as-needed metal detector screenings for students.
The proposal comes after a shooting near La Follette High School in Sept. 2018. MMSD’s school coordinator for safety and security says the proposal would allow an added measure of security for students and staff.
“After Parkland, Florida, that student voice around school safety has really elevated,” Joe Balles said. “What we are trying to do is listen to that voice and what can we do as adults in the room to make the schools as safe as they possibly can be.”
Under the new proposal, the screenings would be on an as-needed basis, meaning, if the school staff felt any threat to security on campus or hosted an event that called for additional security, a screening would need to be approved by the superintendent and Balles would then coordinate the screening.
Balles said no student would be targeted or singled out to be screened. If a weapon was found in the screening, Madison police would be contacted. In the case a metal detection is warranted by the district, all students would undergo the screening process at that school.
Students would be screened by a staff member of the same gender. If the student identifies as nonbinary, they could request who they prefer to screen them.
MMSD does not currently have any policy in place on metal detectors. Balles said the language in district code 4400 would be altered to include a policy, should the school board approve the proposal Monday.
Some parents have called on the schools to have complete metal detectors like the ones seen in airports. Balles said those are too expensive to put at every entrance at every school and could create a false sense of security.
“We will do it more as a deterrent basis but also to communicate to students and families that we take safety in our schools very seriously,” Balles said.
While some parents have voiced their support, some parents say metal detectors are not the right option.
“I don’t think metal detectors are going to send the right message to our young people,” said parent John Wright. “It says we are moving in the wrong direction.”
Wright’s daughter is a freshman at La Follette High School. She was there the day of the shooting. Wright says while he was concerned for his daughter’s safety that day, he believes the school is heading in the wrong direction to fix the problem.
“Who is putting the guns in the hands of a 14 or 15-year-old anyway? That’s my issue,” Wright said. “I think the schools should spend more time outreaching and having after school forums. One or two bad apples shouldn’t spoil the bunch. They are trying to use devices to protect you that will do nothing, in my opinion, but demean students. Who wants to be wanded going into their school? It slows their process of learning down. I don’t think any child at La Follette High School wants to be a felon. I don’t think they want to hurt anybody, but they’re tired of hurting.”
The Madison School Board will meet Monday to adopt the proposal.