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Broward schools are now using metal detectors to search students for weapons

Students walk the halls in Kutztown Area High School.
Melissa Block/NPR
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Broward County Public Schools officials say they're seeing an increase in students bringing weapons to school. Now they've started using metal detectors to randomly screen classrooms.

Broward County Public Schools has started using metal detectors to screen students for weapons. The district says trained security staff are using handheld wands to do random, unannounced searches in classrooms.

BCPS Superintendent Vickie Cartwright says the policy is meant to address a recent increase in students bringing weapons to school.

“Ultimately what we’re trying to do is to deter them from bringing it onto the campus from the beginning,” Cartwright said. “So that is the true intent of this approach. And again it is because we have seen an increase and we have to be responsive and responsible.”

If a student is found with a weapon, they could face expulsion or criminal charges.

Cartwright said the screenings began on Wednesday at one of the district’s middle schools, where three classes were wanded. Officials plan to search two schools a day, five days a week to start, before reviewing the data and reassessing.

Critics of the policy have raised concerns that students of color could be targeted for searches. Cartwright said the district is relying on a computer program to randomize which schools are screened when as a way to eliminate bias.

“We’re very strategic in that approach because we do not want anyone to feel as though we’re profiling or anything to that effect, because that’s not the intent,” Cartwright said. “The intent is truly to do a randomized approach and try to give the intent of making students question whether or not they should be bringing something to school.”

Some parents have pushed for metal detectors in BCPS schools since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.

Broward school board Member Lori Alhadeff’s daughter Alyssa was one of the 17 people who was murdered during the massacre. Alhadeff says she fully supports the policy.

“I think it's definitely going to help create another layer of school safety protection for our schools,” Alhadeff said. “It’s something that I’ve been trying to push for four years because we have to be able to find a way to prevent the guns and weapons from getting into our schools.”

“We have to do more.”

Kate Payne is WLRN's education reporter