JCPS board votes to begin process of adding weapon detectors to schools

JCPS board votes to begin process of adding weapon detectors to schools
Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 11:11 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - After Tuesday, Jefferson County Public School students may need to walk through a weapons detection system.

So far this year, 21 guns have been found in JCPS schools. To stop guns from getting in, the JCPS school board heard a presentation about getting AI to help find weapons at schools.

The board voted 5-2 on Tuesday to begin the process of adding weapon detectors in middle and high schools.

”We’re looking at making our schools as safe as the Yum! Center,” JCPS parent Jennifer Schumacher said. “As safe as our courthouses, as safe as anywhere that you go. We need to protect our kids.”

The JCPS team looked at how these weapon detectors worked in a few different places, such as other school districts, Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Center for the Arts.

One school district that recently added the system went from 38 guns found last year to only three this year.

The presenters made one thing clear, metal detectors and weapon detectors are not the same.

“The signaling system can process 1800 visitors per hour,” JCPS Chief Operations Officer Chris Perkins said. “This frictionless flow is up to 10 times faster than traditional metal detectors.”

With weapon detectors, students can walk right in without having to take off items like they normally would with metal detectors.

If the AI finds something, it focuses on that one area.

“In general the AI is designed to look for shapes and masses that would predict the presence of a gun, the barrel of a gun,” JCPS Chief of Staff Katy Deferrari said.

The AI is designed to find guns and explosive weapons, but other things can set it off.

Such as Chromebooks, umbrellas, and metal rings on binders. They would have a separate table for students to put those kinds of things on.

“Each device would take a minimum of three people to staff the device,” JCPS Chief of Schools Robert Moore said.

One person would help with taking those previously mentioned items, another would check the monitor to pass people through, and a third person would be the secondary screener if a student gets stopped.

That third person would always be a JCPS employee. And if they think they found a weapon, it would need to be handled by an armed officer.

“An onsite armed officer would have to assist if there is a suspected weapon,” Moore said. “We do that right now if there is a suspected weapon.”

The presentation’s timeline has half of the high schools getting the equipment next fall and the other half in the spring. Then all middle schools would get them in the fall of 2024.

The schools with the most guns found would be first in line.

“Superintendent Pollio asked us to make sure early implementers were schools that have had incidences,” Deferrari said. “I think anyone would know that’s a good number of our schools. East, south, west, north.”

The vote had some parents like Brad Watson excited. Watson’s daughter was at Eastern High School when a gun fell out of a student’s backpack.

Since then, he’s been on a mission to get something done.

“I’ve never been a metal detector agnostic, I just wanted something that worked,” Watson said. “This seemed to be such a superior product and system. Detecting weapons, explosives, it’s non-intrusive, the flow of traffic doesn’t get impeded, I just the whole system was a winner.”

There will be a test run at Butler High School starting on May 8. It won’t involve any students.

The board will have a final vote at a special meeting on May 9, along with an opportunity for the public to comment.