One year in, school district still learning how best to use state-provided safety wands

School district still learning how best to use state-provided safety wands

SCOTTSBURG, Ind. (WAVE) – More than one year ago, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb pledged a way to help make your child's school safer, by providing free handheld metal detectors, or wands, to schools. Hundreds of school districts applied, receiving more than 3,400 wands around the state.

In just a few weeks, it’s back to class for students and staff in Scottsburg.

“I’m really looking forward to being able to see my friends and get into new classes,” said Lily Walsh, a sophomore at Scottsburg High School.

The new school year will be the second that Scott County District 2 and hundreds of others around Indiana will have handheld metal detector wands for safety.

More than 400 school districts around the state applied for the wands, the amount they’d receive per school determined by student population. The wands for schools around the state cost Indiana just over $350,000 in all.

Superintendent Marc Slaton said the wands’ arrival came with unanswered questions for his and other districts, so they needed legal procedures and policies in place before using them.

“So you have to monitor them and then you have the OK, what now, if you have a beeping going off and they activate, then obviously you have to have that whole secondary search process,” said Marc Slaton, Scott County District 2 Superintendent.

During the last school year, Slaton said they actually only ended up using the metal detectors about three or four times to determine if students had brought something into the school that they shouldn’t have. The checks the middle and high schools did gave peace of mind to students coming in.

“Yeah, it’s really a nice feeling knowing that they have everything checked out and stuff like that,” Walsh said.

School safety is something they’re taking more seriously now than ever before.

“For 180 days, half the year, one-eighth of the population is in our buildings, so that’s a pretty significant number,” Slaton said. “Kids, when they come to school, and parents when they send their children to school, expect us to do our very best and that’s what we’re trying to do. There’s nothing you do that can guarantee 100 percent that something crazy won’t happen. But I think, you take every step you can to do what you can to try to make sure it’s as reasonably safe as possible.”

So the safety program needs to be more comprehensive, he said.

This year, the district will have six school resource officers, one for each school. That addition of the SROs to each school is a first for the district. And, they’re considering additional security like a metal detector that students and staff would walk through, that can identify dangers but works far faster than the wands.

“So it’s more challenging for the wands to be practical day to day,” Slaton said. “But I think the frequency in which we do it can definitely increase before we get to something that’s more of a permanent solution.”

No matter the challenges, Slaton said the wands will remain a tool in their growing plan to protect their schools and everyone inside.

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