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Metal Detectors in Our Schools

Metal Detectors in Our Schools by Harrison Snyder

Since Columbine, the American people have lived a life of fear. Fear of sending a child to school, fear of the quiet kid in the back of the class, fear of the possibility of tragedy that seemed impossible not long ago. This fear has caused Americans to reach for a safety net in an uncertain world. To some, like Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, safety is found in metal detectors. To others, Fort Wayne Community Schools included, handheld metal detectors are not the way to secure our schools. Metal detectors can cause discrimination, they are merely a form of security theatre, and they reinforce the school to prison pipeline. In a large school system like FWCS, the risks would far outweigh the marginal benefits that metal detectors could hold.

Wabash Superintendent Mike Keaffaber stated that the handheld devices his school system ordered would be used on a “case by case basis.” This highlights one of the key flaws in handheld metal detectors: they inherently cause profiling and discrimination.

What “case” are we speaking of, Mr. Keaffaber? If one were to use the metal detectors on suspicious persons, what would they look like? I have a sinking suspicion they would be minorities or students wearing baggy hand-me-downs. By applying the use of metal detectors discriminately, a school system would be racially profiling students and preying on lower income students. The fear of sending children to school will cause systematic discrimination.

These metal detectors would only be a form of security theatre. Security theatre, as defined by CNN, are security measures “that make people feel more secure without doing anything to actually to improve their security.” In other words, metal detectors in schools would do nothing. The sensation of security in a place of learning is not created in the same way as an airport. At a school, the common and noble quest for knowledge, combined with a structured curriculum, creates a sense of security. One may even argue that by adding metal detectors to such an environment, the school would be demolishing the sense of security created by the nature of being a school. Metal detectors make a student feel the threat of violence every time they walk through the door.

This insecurity, this anticipation of violence, will also threaten  this nation’s youth. The American Civil Liberties Union has established a direct link between strict school rules and the incarceration of students. Metal detectors in schools will create yet another way for public schools to crack down on their students. The ACLU put it best when they stated that children should be “educated, not incarcerated.” A child who is taught to be a criminal, is raised in a system where he is constantly scrutinized, is forced to keep his head down his whole life, will almost surely mature into a criminal adult.

Today we, as a nation, live in constant fear. We fear the uncertainty and insecurity of tomorrow. We fear sending our children to school. We fear that the headlines we see all too often will one day feature the high school down the street. We fear the FWCS tentative decision to put metal detectors in our schools. We cannot put metal detectors in our campuses. Instead, we should embrace the differences between individuals, not call out those who have adverse backgrounds. We should actually secure our schools, not just give useless steps to calm anxious parents. We should fight to support children, not make them fear walking through the school gates.

Photo credits to IndiaMART.

Read Grace McCormick’s news story on the subject of school security:

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