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School board says no to hand-held metal detectors



In a close vote Aug. 28, the Monroe County Community School Corporation voted against ordering free hand-held metal detectors provided by the state. 

Superintendent Judith DeMuth recommended the board utilize the resource, offered by Gov. Eric Holcomb earlier this year, but the board overruled. Each district that orders them determines how they will be used. For MCCSC, DeMuth said trained personnel would use them to scan for guns only when needed.

“There’s a lot more than just ordering them because they’re free,” MCCSC spokesman Andrew Clampitt said. “There’s a lot to be taken into consideration.”

MCCSC was one of 18 public school corporations statewide that did not request the detectors in the initial order period in July. In total, 370 schools requested 3,231 devices that were shipped this month. Another round of orders will occur sometime this fall, said Molly Deuberry Craft, spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Administration. 

The school board conducted meetings with researchers and community members leading up to Tuesday’s 3-4 vote, which DeMuth called an “absolutely no-win” situation. If a shooting did occur, people might point to the board’s failure to utilize all available resources. But board members said there is no research supporting the use of the detectors to prevent shootings, and doing so could threaten a welcoming school culture. 

In her recommendation, DeMuth emphasized the wands would only be used by trained personnel.

This very condition could provoke accusations of profiling, board member Jeannine Butler said. Whether or not they were ever used, she argued, their presence would lessen the positivity students feel toward schools.

Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer said she had not seen any evidence showing the hand-held metal detectors could effectively keep people safe. Other school safety advocates agree. 

Rachel Guglielmo, Indiana chapter leader of gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action, said the organization prefers preventive programs, such as encouraging safe gun storage in homes. 

The goal of the hand-held metal detector program was not to provide a singular solution to school safety, Craft said, but rather to make another resource available as each school individually determines the best way to protect their students and teachers. 

“There are a lot of available options and a lot of different things that schools can do related to school safety,” Craft said. “This is just one of them.”

School safety has been at the forefront of DeMuth’s initiatives since she’s been in office, Clampitt said. Every school in the district has a single secure entry point. The district has focused on mental health initiatives to support social-emotional learning. 

The board also added new school resource officers and appointed a safety coordinator at Tuesday's meeting. 

“This is ever-changing,” Clampitt said. “This conversation is constant. It doesn’t stop.”

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