Fairfax Co. considering weapons screening pilot program at some high schools

Weapons detection screeners could be coming to some Fairfax County, Virginia, schools as part of a pilot program that may be paid for with unused funding from fiscal year 2023.

At Thursday night’s board meeting, Chief Financial Officer Leigh Burden said $3 million of carried-over funding from the last fiscal year has been allocated for a safety and security screening pilot program. The security scanning technology, according to school board documents, would be installed at select high schools.

According to Superintendent Michelle Reid, the county is exploring different technologies, and county staff members have visited surrounding jurisdictions that have implemented similar programs. 

In May, Prince William County’s school board approved a plan to place Evolv weapons detectors in all middle and high schools.

School systems across the D.C. region have turned to screeners as part of their security initiatives. In Prince William County, Superintendent LaTanya McDade emphasized safety in the aftermath of a school shooting in Newport News, Virginia.

Earlier this year, Reid said several security projects in the county are ahead of schedule, including the addition of vestibules and cameras. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors also recently signed off on a plan that will add cameras on some school bus stop arms.

“Really, all the divisions within our region are looking at technologies and softwares that are going to mitigate security risks,” Reid said. 

It’s unclear how many or which high schools would get the scanning technology.

Critics of the tech argue that it’s not a necessary expense and would give schools a prisonlike feel.

“I’m very glad to hear about that,” Board Member Karen Corbett Sanders said of the potential pilot program. “And I’m at first blush thinking that’s an easy thing to support, but having a little more details would be helpful.” 

Virginia’s largest school system has $127.5 million in carry-over funds available for fiscal 2024. The school board ultimately has to vote on how that funding is spent. 

About $3.5 million in funding will be used to create an incentive and bonus pay for substitute teachers. Substitute teacher fill rates have improved, the school system said, adding that incentive and bonus pay “are an important means to reach adequate substitute coverage next school year.”

The incentives, Burden said, have worked well to help the county address substitute teacher vacancies, particularly on Fridays, which the school system characterizes as hard to fill.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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