Prince William Co. schools approves adding weapon detection screeners as ‘measure of safety and security’

Weapon detection systems are coming to Virginia's second-largest public school system, WTOP's Neal Augenstein reports.

Virginia’s second-largest school system has approved a plan to install weapon detection screeners in all middle and high schools by the fall.

The Prince William County School Board unanimously voted to approve the plan Wednesday. The county plans to use the equipment over the next four years, which it anticipates will cost about $10.7 million.

In the coming months, the school system will work on training for staff, and create policies for the use of the weapons detection system to screen students.

“The safety of everyone in our schools is the Board’s highest priority. Tonight’s investment in the Evolv Weapons Detection System is the latest demonstration of our commitment to safer schools,” Board Chairman Dr. Babur Lateef said in a statement following the board approval of the system.

“This detection system enhances current security measures and is critical as we work to improve the safety of our students and staff members.”

The county announced plans to explore the use of the scanners earlier this year, emphasizing the importance of safety in the aftermath of school shootings, including one in Newport News, Virginia.

Prince William County school officials held a series of community information sessions, and conducted a survey to get community feedback. Supporters said the technology would help keep weapons out of school and discourage students from bringing them to school campuses.

“It will not be perfect, but it is a further deterrent and an added protection to our students,” said Potomac District Board Member Justin Wilk.

Opponents, meanwhile, said the screeners aren’t a necessary expense, and would make entering schools feel comparable to entering a prison.

Lateef, though, previously said community feedback was largely positive, and that “the community has spoken with near unanimity.”

Coles District School Board Member Lisa Zargarpur said the screening systems will bring “a measure of safety and security to the hearts and minds of our staff, our students, our families.”

The scanners use sensors and artificial intelligence to detect guns, knives and other weapons. Anil Chitkara, Evolv Technology’s co-founder and chief growth officer, told WTOP that the scanners are in use in more than 200 schools across the country.

Students don’t have to remove anything from their backpacks or pockets when walking through the scanners, though certain things, such as Chromebook laptops, may need to be removed, Lateef said.

Several other Northern Virginia school systems, including the City of Alexandria and Fairfax County Public Schools, are weighing the possibility of adding similar technology. Manassas City Public Schools voted to use weapons detecting screeners earlier this year.

Charles County, Maryland, public schools has also detailed plans to use AI gun detection technology in schools.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report. 

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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