Gateway schools getting metal detectors |
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Dillon Carr
Gateway High School

Metal detectors are coming to Gateway School District.

The district’s Board of Directors voted to place a new policy on 30-day public display Nov. 20. The policy includes details about how the district will use metal detectors and handheld wand detectors.

Board member Rick McIntyre said the district is planning to purchase metal detectors for every building.

“It’s becoming a way of life. You go into anywhere – any event – and you’re going through a metal detector. It’s important to do anything we can to keep the buildings safe,” McIntyre said.

To start, the district will purchase six metal detectors for the high school and four units for Gateway Middle School through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency grant program.

The funds totalling $25,000 will be available in December. The district will purchase the 10 units in January to roll out the program through the end of the year, said Assistant Superintendent Dennis Chakey.

According to the policy, which is available to read at the district’s administrative building, everyone who enters a Gateway building will be subject to a metal detector test.

“No student, staff member or visitor should be subject to the dangers inherent in a firearm, knife or other potentially dangerous object carried onto district property by another person,” reads the policy.

But that doesn’t mean everyone will be screened every time, said Mary Beth Circucci, the school board’s safety committee chair and school board vice president.

“We don’t have the manpower or time to run every kid through,” she said. “But it will still be a deterrent because the kids won’t know if they’re going to go through it. This is a way to have metal detection without taking two hours to do it.”

Instead of herding every student, staff member and visitor through the metal detectors, Cirucci said the district’s 13 school police officers will randomize who gets screened – at least for now.

“We’re doing this as a trial. There will be trial and error as far as what works best for our district,” Cirucci said, adding the district will build on the program after the trial period.

“There are a variety of ways you can randomly choose kids to go through them,” Cirucci said.

Options include screening students from specific buses on certain days, screening students at different school entrances, or screening every fifth student who walks through the doors.

The new policy states, “random screenings must ensure that no discrimination enters into the selection of the individuals to be screened.”

Nearby districts such as Penn Hills and Pittsburgh Public Schools have had metal detectors in place for years.

“Most of our schools are moving toward them,” said Ebony Pugh, a PPS public information officer. “There’s just a few elementary schools that don’t have them.”

At Penn Hills School District, metal detectors have become part of students’ and staff members’ daily routines, said Superintendent Nancy Hines.

“Students in grades five and up must pass through metal detection stations each morning, and bags are also manually searched,” Hines said in an email.

For younger students, she said bags are now checked within the classroom prior to the start of formal instruction. The procedure was introduced this school year to intercept toys and other “non-instructional devices.”

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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