Jefferson County Board of Education votes for implementation of weapon detection systems

Jefferson County Board of Education votes for implementation of weapon detection systems
Published: May. 9, 2023 at 6:40 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The Board of Education voted on Tuesday to proceed with the implementation of weapon detection systems in Jefferson County schools.

In a 5-2 vote, the school board voted in favor of a plan for bringing the weapon detection systems to JCPS middle and high schools in the 2023-2024 school year.

Tuesday’s vote was for an implementation timeline that would bring weapon detection systems into schools using phases, with the first phase being implemented in Ballard, Butler, Eastern, Iroquois, Seneca, Shawnee and Waggener high schools.

At the April 25 board meeting, it was said that the schools with the most guns found would be first in line.

Staffing was also addressed in the new implementation plan, providing two possible staffing options. An armed officer would be required or provided during check lanes, with a minimum of one school staff person at each lane.

A school administrator would conduct secondary screenings.

The new detection systems would use artificial intelligence to find concealed threats, including firearms and explosive devices, and could scan around 1,800 people an hour.

”Our principals are really struggling and our staff working every single day having to follow up on leads on a daily basis around potential guns at the school,” said JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio.

It would also allow students to walk right through the detection system without having to take items off, like for a metal detector.

As JCPS continues to move forward, some people are asking them to slow down.

Before they voted, people voiced their opinions on the plan, most of which were negative.

Nine people spoke at the meeting, and only one of them was in support of the implementation of the weapon detectors.

“I am begging you to not be so hasty on jumping on board with this trendy new tech,” said Lindsay Sheldon.

Many of the speakers had a few issues with the proposal. Such as the effectiveness of the detectors, the criminalization of kids, and armed officers in schools.

At the April 25 meeting, it was said that an armed officer would need to be on campus in case the system finds a suspected weapon.

“Right now school staff discover weapons largely through a student telling a trusted adult,” Chris Harmer said. “That’s still the right way to balance student safety, your mission focus, and equity.”

“We do not want to see children removed from the educational process simply because they were in fear of their life or simply made a bad decision,” said Lyndon Pryor with the Louisville Urban League.

“You’ve heard over the course of the last five years that the community does not want police in schools,” said Z Haukeness.

“Let’s not install a prohibitively expensive, unproven system that will disproportionately harm our most at-risk kids,” Sheldon said.

Board member Chris Kolb shared their skepticism.

“This to me seems like a form of magical thinking that we’re engaging in,” Kolb said. “Superstition even, that we hope that if we rub our rabbit’s foot and spend millions and millions of dollars on it it’ll somehow make our students safer.”

Deputy Mayor David James was the only speaker from the public to support the plan.

“I’m here asking you to help us protect children,” James said. “It’s not a solution, it’s not perfect, but we need to work together to try and get to perfect.”

The board will now look for proposals to install the detection systems in middle and high schools.

“I’ve seen it, the team’s seen it and I think it can be effective,” Pollio said. “And I think if this is something that is not effective, we can take it away.”

Some people were disappointed by the board’s decision.

“I think we’re putting a band-aid on something to make sure we’ve done something so when they talk to their constituents they can say they did something, but are we really doing something for the students?” Felicia Nu’Man with the Louisville Urban League asked.

There will be a presentation of the AI Weapon Detection System for media, board members, and stakeholders this week and next week.