Removing Metal Detectors


In alignment with our strategic priorities of racial equity and trauma-responsive practices, we will end the use of metal detectors in 287 buildings beginning the 2021-2022 school year. Note that only two sites currently have working metal detectors, as we have decided to invest in student-friendly proactive strategies that advance positive learning environments. Read more about the decision to remove metal detectors.

Why are we removing metal detectors?

  • We are investing in student-friendly proactive school safety strategies that advance positive learning environments.
  • Removing metal detectors is yet another step to advance racial equity and promote safe schools for everyone.
  • Research suggests that metal detectors contribute to poor learning environments, a false sense of security, and inequity.

Welcome and Screening Process

We want to emphasize that this change is not simply about removing metal detectors. This change is about transforming our beliefs and creating a school entry process that embodies our values and truly supports students. Many schools have mastered an effective school welcoming process. What does this look like and feel like? It’s about continuing to develop what we already know: strong relationships with students are essential.

  • Checking in with students
  • Assessing students’ physical and emotional well-being
  • Taking “temperature” of the day’s climate, collectively and individually
  • Empathy and understanding of how students show up and noticing when someone seems “off”
  • Conversations that start the day on a positive note
  • Body language that shows interest and care for students
  • Acknowledging, greeting, and making eye contact with students

We will continue to screen students as part of our entry into school by greeting students and thoroughly checking backpacks and coats. Should there be cause to further screen a person, wands may also be used.

FAQs

What is the history of metal detectors in District 287?

The use of metal detectors at our sites over the past 14 years resulted in inequalities and racial profiling. Several years ago, we transitioned to requiring all students and guests to walk through metal detectors to minimize these racial disparities. It is clear to us now that the use of metal detectors, in general, is not a practice that aligns with our strategic priorities. Further, we recognize that metal detectors unintentionally perpetuate a culture inconsistent with students feeling valued, welcomed, and respected.

What does the research say about metal detectors in schools?

There is no evidence to support that metal detectors prevent violence in school settings. In fact, research suggests metal detectors contribute to poor learning environments, a false sense of security, and inequity. 

Unfortunately, even in serious safety incidents where metal detectors were present, such as in Memphis, Florida, and Red Lake, they were ineffective in preventing school shootings. Experts, researchers, and advocates all agree that trusting and caring relationships among students and staff, rigorous and engaging curriculum, and equitable discipline policies make schools safer than metal detectors could ever make them.

View the research summary.

  • Student outcomes: Metal detectors contribute to poor learning environments that lead to poor student outcomes. They disrupt feelings of trust, cooperation, and respect by sending a clear signal to students that they are dangerous, violent, and prone to illegal activity.
  • False sense of security: Research suggests that metal detector use was positively related to higher levels of school disorder and lower levels of student perceptions of school safety. Additionally, students understand how to bring weapons into school without being detected, even in schools where strict security measures are present. Unfortunately, there have been numerous school shootings where schools had metal detectors, but they did nothing to stop the perpetrator's actions.
  • Perpetuates Inequality: Students of Color are more likely to be subjected to intense school surveillance measures, which perpetuate inequalities already present in our education system. The disproportionate use of security measures further impairs the trust needed to establish positive, safe learning environments. This skews minority students’ perceptions of their standing and future roles in our society. When we label students as defiant, maladjusted, criminally inclined, and difficult to deal with . . . they are more likely to internalize these labels and act out in ways that match the expectations that have been set for them.
  • Treated as criminals: Metal detectors “foster environments where children perceive that they are being treated as criminals and cultivate negative attitudes toward their schools.”
  • Funding: Metal detectors divert funding from other evidence-based programs that may reduce school violence without degrading the learning environment.

Sources

Newsworthy

How will screening change in the 2021-2022 school year?

Beginning in the 2021-2022 school year, District 287 will no longer ask students, families, staff, or guests to walk through metal detectors when they enter our buildings. 

We will continue to screen students as part of our entry into school by greeting students and thoroughly checking backpacks and coats. Should there be cause to further screen a person, wands may also be used. The use of wands will be based on credible reasons as determined by the school safety team. Wanding will not happen publicly, rather, on an individual basis when the staff and student are in a safe place.

Many schools have mastered an effective school welcoming process. What does this look like and feel like? It’s about continuing to develop what we already know: strong relationships with students are essential.

  • Checking in with students
  • Assessing students’ physical and emotional well-being
  • Taking “temperature” of the day’s climate, collectively and individually
  • Empathy and understanding of how students show up and noticing when someone seems “off”
  • Conversations that start the day on a positive note
  • Body language that shows interest and care for students
  • Acknowledging, greeting, and making eye contact with students
What does this mean for school safety?

As a District that serves a unique population of students, our philosophy about school safety is rooted in long-term, proactive safety, and school climate/culture efforts.

  • Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
  • Focus on trauma-informed practices and relationship building
  • Emphasis on social emotional learning for students,
  • Proactive behavior management
  • De-escalation techniques
  • School-linked mental health services
Don't metal detectors protect against weapons in school?

It may come as no surprise that cell phones are the number one item confiscated via metal detectors.

While weapon confiscation is minimal, metal detectors have not always been reliable in finding them. Other forms of screening, such as searching backpacks and jackets, have been more effective.

Unfortunately, even in serious safety incidents where metal detectors were present, such as in Memphis, Florida, and Red Lake, they were ineffective in preventing school shootings.

It is important to note that students ages 18+ are legally allowed to carry personal items such as a pocket knife or pepper spray, just not in school. In many cases, students turn in these items before school and pick them up after. We understand that some students use these items for personal protection.

What does this have to do with race if all students are screened?

Racial equity work is about learning from past experiences, and doing better when we know better. 

We recognize that the use of metal detectors at our sites over the past 15 years resulted in inequalities in who was asked to be screened and ultimately racial profiling. Several years ago, we transitioned to requiring all students and guests to walk through metal detectors to minimize these racial disparities. 

It is clear to us now that the use of metal detectors, in general, is not a practice that aligns with our strategic priorities of racial equity and trauma-responsive practices. Further, we recognize that metal detectors unintentionally perpetuate a culture inconsistent with students feeling valued, welcomed, and respected.

How will removing metal detectors impact school culture?

We want to emphasize that this change is not simply about removing metal detectors. This change is about transforming our beliefs and creating a school entry process that embodies our values and truly supports students.

We are listening to students and families. As a district that serves many students with disabilities, it’s important that we create learning spaces where students feel safe, welcomed, valued, and respected when they come to school.

Many schools have mastered an effective school welcoming process. What does this look like and feel like? It’s about continuing to develop what we already know: strong relationships with students are essential.

  • Checking in with students
  • Assessing students’ physical and emotional well-being
  • Taking “temperature” of the day’s climate, collectively and individually
  • Empathy and understanding of how students show up and noticing when someone seems “off”
  • Conversations that start the day on a positive note
  • Body language that shows interest and care for students
  • Acknowledging, greeting, and making eye contact with students
How does this decision align with District 287 strategic priorities?

In recent years, we have taken significant strides to become a trauma-responsive and racially-equitable District. We opened therapeutic teaching classrooms, implemented a racial equity impact analysis tool, started partnerships with Psychotherapist and Healer Resmaa Menakem and Bruce Perry's ChildTrauma Academy, and many more.

One major shift in how we approached safety was the removal of School Resource Officers beginning in 2017. Our Student Safety Coach model garnered national attention for its effectiveness and success. Removing metal detectors is yet another step to advance racial equity and promote safe schools for everyone.

How has the District engaged staff, students, and families in the decision?

The decision to remove metal detectors was made by Superintendent Lewandowski after serious concerns about the racial equity impacts of using metal detectors. It was determined that the communication and engagement with stakeholders should focus on understanding and processing the decision, rather than on the decision itself