Danville schools committee recommends metal detectors at high school

Danville schools committee recommends metal detectors at high school

DANVILLE — A Danville schools panel that's been studying safety measures would like to see walk-through metal detectors, wands, an electronic visitor-management system and increased security staffing at the high school.

"We would like to be proactive, not reactive," said Business and Finance Director Heather Smith, who, along with other school safety committee members, presented ideas to the school board Wednesday.

The board will consider the recommendations — which include adopting the Raptor visitor-management system at North Ridge Middle School, and similar measures at Kenneth D. Bailey Academy as it expands — when setting priorities in the district's long-term strategic plan.

The committee formed after Terri Davis, a self-described "VIP, or very involved parent," addressed the board a few months ago, asking it to consider placing metal detectors in the high school.

Davis told News-Gazette Media she had done so several years ago and was prompted again recently after an incident where a couple of students set off a firecracker in the high school. That prompted a lockdown and fear of a shooting among some students.

"I think it's very necessary because times have changed," Davis said of taking a look at what other schools do.

As part of its study, the panel made up of Davis and key staff visited three schools using metal detectors — two Decatur alternative schools and Joliet Central High School, which has 3,250 students.

What they envisioned of the student arrival process differed from what they observed and what staff shared.

"It was very efficient," Davis said. "It wasn't intrusive like some people may think. ... At the beginning, there may have been a little resistance, but it's almost like the norm now."

Smith said the metal detectors are portable and can be moved to where they're needed, and Joliet conducts random walkthroughs and bag searches on a limited weekly basis.

That school also schedules random large-scale morning checks of 200 to 400 students, performs a limited number of random checks in selected classrooms, and sometimes sets up checkpoints where staff stop buses and check the riders once they enter a pre-designated door.

"It's not every student. It's not every day. It's random," Smith said. "The idea behind this is (students) don't know when they're going to have to go through the metal detectors. That way, it will keep them on high guard."

Smith said Joliet also uses the metal detectors and the Raptor system for visitors.

Visitors must present their ID, which is scanned, allowing staff to know their name and what they look like. The system also prints a picture ID, which visitors wear while on school grounds.

Guests are then escorted to their destination.

The detectors can also be used for athletic and other community events, committee members said.

Two metal detectors for the high school would run $7,455; three wands, $600; the Raptor system, an initial $2,409, $50 for badges and annual subscription of $540.

Five extra hall monitors at DHS would cost roughly $160,000 a year but could be funded with a grant.

Smith said the district has already put a number of proactive measures in place: better and more security cameras, more perimeter lighting, door alarms, wands at Bailey Academy, moving DHS's main entrance, conducting background checks on volunteers, holding critical incident drills and implementing the Crisis-Go safety platform, among other things.

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