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Alexandria City Schools considering weapon-detector scanners

Amid a recent gun possession incident at Alexandria City High School, school officials are considering installing scanners that detect weapons.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Community members in Alexandria have only one day left to complete a survey on the possible use of scanner technology in schools that would detect weapons.

The survey by Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) asks for feedback from students, staff and families until March 8.

The results of the survey will be presented in the next school board meeting on March 16, which will vote on the future of the pilot program that uses screening technology through photography and artificial intelligence. The system allows for quick passage of high numbers of people entering the school without having to remove items from the bag or person.

School officials have not released the name of the company, but Osbourn High School in Manassas recently launched a similar technology called Evolv Express.

“The use of weapons screening equipment within our schools will support in the reduction of weapons entering our school facilities,” said Chief of Facilities and Operations Dr. Alicia Hart.

In the February meeting when the detectors were introduced, the school board approved starting a pilot program to bring the technology by the end of the school year, although the school district has not announced which schools are participating. 

Meanwhile, student representative Emily Milton said, “I don’t think this will go over well.”

“I don’t want to feel unsafe but putting a metal detector or a metal detector type of equipment in schools, it doesn’t help," Milton said. "It makes me feel more unsafe. It is a bad look.”

Interim Superintendent Dr. Melanie Kay-Wyatt stressed it will become a part of everyday life.

In the midst of ongoing conversation about school safety and extra security, Alexandria Police arrested a 14-year-old boy for possession of a weapon on school grounds on Monday.

The school was placed in “secure the building” mode after a teacher reported a student was carrying a handgun that was later confirmed unloaded. To secure the building means classes can continue on a normal schedule, but no one is allowed to enter or leave the school.

No one was injured.

In a recent school board meeting presentation, 15 of the 188 incidents from the first half of the school year were weapons related. The school safety data report said most of the weapons confiscated were knives.

The data shows 78 of the incidents came from high schools followed by 71 in middle schools.

The number of incidents was slightly down compared to the same time period in the previous school year, but there was an uptick in middle school incidents.

Among the next steps from the meeting include posting safety data presentations, enhancing partnership with student services on student wellness, emergency response video series rollout and support technology services.

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