ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The Alexandria School Board has approved a pilot program to install state-of-the-art weapons detectors at middle and high schools. The equipment is expected to be launched by May. The detectors would be installed by April, and administrators and staff will be trained.
Many members of the Alexandria community including students and parents support the use of weapon detectors in schools, according to results of a recent community survey.
Alexandria City Public Schools wanted feedback on the potential launch of a weapons abatement pilot program. It would install scanners that would detect the presence of weapons including guns and knives.
Nearly 4,400 people filled out the online survey from Feb. 24 to March 8. More than half of them were family or a guardian followed by students who made up 27% of respondents.
"I was actually surprised at how many students are interested in the new technology," Alexandria City High School PTSA President Katy Matthews told WUSA9. "I was under one impression and this showed me I was wrong."
The report said mainly 85% of survey respondents supported the use of weapons screening equipment. Nearly 60% said they wanted it in all schools while 27% said for only middle and high schools. The ratio to support the screening equipment trended when going from high school to elementary school.
When asked what reasons were most important for supporting the technology in all or some ACPS schools, 80% cited overall safer and more secure schools. At 72%, of respondents said it is because of weapons entering schools are a big concern followed by less anxiety and better screening mechanisms.
For those opposed to the equipment, 59% were worried about the negative impact on a “welcoming” feeling. About 32% cited the potential cost install the technology for other reasons including additional staff.
"To some extent, we're already having to do this for reports of weapons," ACPS Chief of Facilities and Operations Dr. Alicia Hart said in a February school board meeting. "Between administrative staff, SSO staff, and SRO staff, we should have enough people for the pilot.”
At the same board meeting, the community learned 15 of the 188 incidents from the first half of the school year involved weapons. 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.
A breakdown of the results:
- Yes, for all schools 519 (44%)
- Yes, but only for middle and high schools 337 (29%)
- No 325 (28%)
- Yes, for all schools 356 (58%)
- Yes, but only for middle and high schools 198 (33%)
- No 55 (9%)
- Yes, for all schools 1,484 (65%)
- Yes, but only for middle and high schools 577 (25%)
- No 234 (10%)
- Yes, for all schools 182 (63%)
- Yes, but only for middle and high schools 59 (20%)
- No 48 (17%)
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