URBANA — The Urbana School Board moved toward buying and installing metal detectors at Tuesday’s study session after hearing from a second company, Ceia, about its system.
Board members also saw the results of a survey in which a majority of students and staff said they think weapons are regularly already in schools.
“Our students are telling us this, our staff is saying it,” Superintendent Jennifer Ivory-Tatum said. “We know that we have students with weapons in the schools.”
The Ceia representative spoke Tuesday about its Opengate metal detectors, which ignore smaller items like vape pens and pocketknives but will flag weapons like guns and larger knives.
The board previously heard from Evolv Technology, which supplied the metal detectors that were installed this week at both Champaign high schools.
The Opengate system was touted by Ivory-Tatum and Chief Information Officer John Gutzmer for its portability, low maintenance and price. Five gates would cost $65,000, whereas four of Evolv Technology’s Dualgate systems would cost the district $205,000.
Board member Anne Hall asked for more research on whether metal detectors actually work, and fellow board member Ravi Hasanadka said while he supported the metal detectors for the benefit of peace of mind at the $65,000 price point, he didn’t think it would reduce fighting in the schools.
Ivory-Tatum pushed back, referencing the murder of Urbana High School student Jordan Atwater-Lewis last week.
“We can research, we can pull up articles, we can do all of that,” she said. “But we are not going to continue to bury our heads in the sand and realize what is happening in our communities.
“We lost a student who walked through our halls all fall. And several of his friends were present when he was killed. How do you think those young men feel? Our students are telling us this; our staff are telling us this.”
In a survey open to all Urbana High School students and staff, nearly 75 percent of staff members and more than half of students said they think students bring guns into the building.
A vote on buying the metal detectors will likely be on the agenda at the board’s next meeting in two weeks.
“The kids are telling us guns are in the school,” board member Tori Exum said. “What else do we need? … We’ve got to show we’re doing something about the guns, because guns are the problem in our community right now. Maybe not in yours, but it is in mine.
“For ($65,000), end the conversation. Buy it.”