Metal detectors to be installed at some Alexandria schools in pilot program

The school board in Alexandria, Virginia, voted on Thursday to roll out a pilot program to introduce weapons screening metal detectors in the city’s schools.

Results from a survey released in February on the potential use of weapons screening equipment found that of the 4,374 respondents, 85% supported the use of the equipment in all or some schools and 58% supported it in all schools. And 28% of the 1,181 students who responded voted against the implementation of the equipment.

Dr. Alicia Hart, the board’s chief of facilities and operations, shared the survey’s results during Thursday’s meeting and said the main reason for the community’s support was an overall need to feel safer in their schools as weapons in schools are a “significant concern and problem.”

Those who responded against the use of the equipment said their main concerns were the cost of putting them in all the city’s schools — $13,000 for each mobile device and $60,000 per fixed system — and the negative impact it has on the “welcoming feeling” in schools.

“We can’t put a price on the well-being (and) safety of our students,” said school board member Abdel-Rahman Elnoubi regarding concerns about the costliness of implementing the equipment.

Hart said her staff has already met with the administration of the schools in the pilot program and that the equipment will be in place by early May. Schools taking part in the pilot program are both Alexandria City High School campuses (King Street and Minnie Howard), George Washington Middle School, and Francis C. Hammond Middle School.

The pilot program would be in place for summer school programs, and the decision to put them in place permanently would be discussed next school year in the fall.

“I want to reiterate that the goal of this program is to act as a deterrent for weapons entering our facilities,” Hart said.

The decision comes after a growing concern for weapons in schools across the state, especially after the shooting of a teacher by a 6-year-old in Newport News.

Just last week, a teenage student sent an Alexandria high school into lockdown after a gun was found in his possession.

“The entire city needs to understand that it’s about the safety of their kids, not about the aesthetics … not what it costs,” said school board member Willie F. Bailey Sr. “We know there’s no need to bring up what happened a couple of weeks ago … suppose that would have went the other way around.”

Ciara Wells

Ciara Wells is the Evening Digital Editor at WTOP. She is a graduate of American University where she studied journalism and Spanish. Before joining WTOP, she was the opinion team editor at a student publication and a content specialist at an HBCU in Detroit.

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