By Aleeha Shah | news editor
Metal detectors will now be used at all NEISD athletic events. According to NEISD’s Director of Athletics, Karen Funk, this is being done in order to ensure safety for those who attend these events.
Funk and North East Police Department Chief Wallace McCampbell had many conversations about what has been going on, and decided to talk to the other executives about using the detectors.
“We had used the metal detectors at several other sites for other events, not for athletic events. We began a conversation with Dr. Gottardy [superintendent of schools] and the rest of the executive staff, and talked about being prepared for that moment when we might have an active shooter, an unhappy parent, or an unhappy student. Someone who just decides to make a statement,” Funk said. “Then when Texas allowed open – carry, that really sealed the deal for us.”
With HB 910 now in place, citizens can now carry their guns on them where others can see it. Because of this, there were some small issues to resolve at the stadiums.
“We had two incidents last year where two gentlemen had put their guns on early in the morning for open-carry and never thought about it again for the rest of the day, had come to both stadiums – one was at one stadium, the other was at the other – and they still had their weapons on them when we started an event. It scared the people on the stands next to them,” Funk said. “Now just as soon as we said something to them, they took them off and took them immediately to their cars. We didn’t have any problems at all, but how easy was it to walk into an event and be carrying, and an incident could happen down the way.”
The metal detectors have different parts and are able to show where the metal is on a person.
“The metal detector has three areas: the upper body, the middle body, and the lower body. When [people] go through it, it will show us where it beeps. If you walk through, and you had a big button on, it would show your upper torso. We will gently wand that area, and realize it’s the button,” Funk said.
Although the metal detectors are being used to detect any metal on a person, they are not like airport security.
“Airport security wants to check every piece of metal on your body, we just want to know that you have a great big huge knife or that you have a gun. We’re not looking for the snaps on your jeans. We are looking for something that’s big that would tell us we might have an issue,” Funk said.
Everyone must go through the metal detectors at the athletic events. This includes children that come with parents. The people not made to go through the detectors are those in wheelchairs and students participating in the event.
“The people that we have not made go through the metal detectors are people in wheelchairs just because that is a tight fit for them. After they pass through, we give them a quick wand, because it’s easy to put something in somebody’s lap and roll them in. We don’t want them to think they’re not apart of this, nor do we want to send the message that if you come in a wheelchair, you’re free to go,” Funk said. “The people who don’t go through are the athletes, the band members, and our drill team. Those are students who are participating in the activity. We have not set [the detectors] up at those two gates.”
Funk has not received any negative feedback so far.
“We really haven’t had any big issues in the three weeks we’ve used them, in the two weeks we’ve used them in football, which is seven games, and the three-four games we’ve had them at volleyball. We haven’t had somebody who just had a meltdown and told us we’re the most awful people on the planet,” Funk said.
Although she has not gotten any negative feedback, there is a con to having the metal detectors.
“The biggest con we’ve had so far is the fact that we did not realize how many people we would need to work the metal detectors, to make them efficient and run well. We were short sided on that,” Funk said. “We thought we could do with a smaller number, so in the gym at Littleton, we have three people who work it, and at each football game we have twelve people who work. So that is another twelve people that we need to hire, train, and have ready to go.”
Funk does not believe that the metal detectors will impact the number of people that attend the games.
“At the Gucci Bowl, we had over 8,000 people, and then the next two nights,we still had big crowds, over six to eight thousand. It doesn’t seem to be an issue at all,” Funk said. “People have to go through metal detectors when they go to concerts, when you go to Spurs games, when you’re at the airport, and more people are like ‘Ok, I get it,’ and they move on through.”
Ultimately, the metal detectors were set up in order to protect the public from potential threats.
“For me, I go to football games and watch football games. Don’t misunderstand me, but sometimes I just sit there and think ‘This is a great place to make a statement,’ and when you look at all the people who’ve made statements as an active shooter, whether they were in a movie theatre or they were at their campus. There were lots of people around who were unsuspecting targets, and I don’t want that to happen to moms and dads in the stands, to small children in the stands, and I definitely don’t want someone to open fire out on the field or on a court,” Funk said. “I want people to feel as comfortable and safe as we can make them, and in this day and age, that’s really the most important thing.”