New safety measure coming to campus

by Elijah Johns | staff writer

Over the summer, every middle school and high school campus in NEISD were issued between seven and ten metal detecting wands to help promote a safer learning environment throughout the district. At this time, the wands are on campus but not in use while a district committee develops usage protocol.

“The district has a safety security committee that meets quarterly and that’s something we’re working on. We are still going over the wand protocol and procedures. After that what will happen is it will go to the legal council for review, then to the district’s executive staff for final approval. And then from there it will be announced to the community and the schools. The next part will be for signs to be put up to notify people that they would be subject to search,” Director of Risk Management Mario Ward said.

Ward did not specify a timeline for this, but according to the district, the wands will be used to conduct more of a “random search” in regards to anyone that enters or exits the school at any given time.

“The key on all of this is it will be very consistent and random. It wouldn’t be anyone getting singled out or anything like that. For instance, let’s say a school has 10 school buses come in the morning. The principal or someone in charge of that [the wands] would say, ‘I’m going to put all bus numbers in my hand and I’m going to pick one randomly…it’s bus number 510 today.’ So any student getting off bus 510 would be subject to search. Or maybe every fifth student would be subject to search,” Ward said.

With these devices, the goal is to ensure that the searches are completely random and students do not know whether they will be checked or not.

“As long as it is random, consistent, and fair, that’s what the district is looking at. It could be coming into a certain wing, they may say, “Everyone coming into the cafeteria will be scanned.’ Or, ‘Anyone coming into the athletic building.’ It could be done at anytime. The principal could say that everyone who is tardy today could be searched. That’s sorta the randomness, it doesn’t single anybody out,” Ward said.

There are some schools outside of NEISD that may use a different protocol in terms of using the wands, which could just mean an alternate way to determine which group of students will be checked.

“Some school districts in other cities, what they do is have the students pick a color coded object. If you would pick a green ticket you would get searched and if you picked a red one you wouldn’t get searched. The student would reach in and pull out a ticket and that was random as well,” Ward said.

However, on all NEISD campuses, police officers and school administrators are working together to try and make all schools a safer environment.

“Then our police department will do training with school administrators to learn the utilization of the wands. But those details are being worked out, there are still segments of our security committee that are in the process of finalizing the writing on those [wands],” Ward said.

Because of the fact that several NEISD high schools have large campuses with multiple entrances and exits, it is nearly impossible to wand every person that walks in and out of the school.

“You would have to force everyone into one entrance and knowing that what we do as a school – we are not a prison. We are not a public building,” principal John Mehlbrech said. “We don’t have one or two entrances and exits, and we do a lot of things all year round. It really wouldn’t be feasible to put in a door metal detector for that reason, and not to mention we have multiple buildings.”

Even though there have been no reported cases of violence on our campus, other schools within the district have had incidents warranting attention, most specifically an incident that took place at Madison High School where a student was apprehended after bringing a bag of loaded weapons to school. That student now faces a jail sentence of eight years.

“Ultimately the intent of the magnetic wands is that in today’s day and time, where you have had, almost weekly, some kind of incident of violence at public schools. It is incumbent upon us as a district and as the stewards of the greatest resource we have, the students, to ensure your [student’s] safety is to use every and any means possible,” assistant principal David Bordelon said.

With these devices now in place at the various campuses, in addition to being used at public events, metal detecting wands are now becoming more prevalent in today’s society.

“People are seeing more and more at athletic events and places. I know at the Spurs games they are starting to do this as well. The goal is to be very consistent and random. It’s not to delay anyone from getting to school, it’s just to put in everybody’s mind that, ‘Hey, I’m subject to search. I could be checked for a weapon. I don’t want to do that at Northeast,’” Ward said.

The influx of security around campus and in the city is primarily to prevent anything disastrous from happening. The wands are purely a security measure taken by the district.

“The ultimate goal is to deter concerns at our school. Just like how our district has the two dogs, or the K-9 unit. They go out and do random searches at our schools. And that’s to deter drugs being at our campus, the same way with the wands. It will be more of a deterrent in terms of deterring weapons at our school. because people will know when they come to North East that they are subject to being searched. And that may make them think twice about bringing a knife or a weapon to the school district,” Ward said.

The safety of the students and facility is the number one priority of the district. Just like having police officers, wands are just one more precaution.

“We don’t want to be a lockdown facility where we have to put you in uniform and go through metal detectors and search you everytime you go through,” Mehlbrech said.

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