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School security addressed at board meeting

By BOB HANSEN - bhansen@newsexaminer.com

Although Fayette County School Corp. has a dozen new handheld metal detectors, they won’t be put into use until school personnel are trained and a policy for their use has been developed.

Superintendent Scott Collins presented a first draft of a metal detector policy to the school board Tuesday. Board members expressed concerns related to proper use of the devices and protection of student rights. Collins said those concerns will be addressed before the policy is made final.

The new policy is necessary because the school corporation received 12 handheld metal detectors, called wands. After a school shooting in Hamilton County earlier this year, the Indiana governor’s office offered them to all schools at no cost, based on one wand per 250 students.

On Wednesday, Collins told the Connersville News-Examiner, “While we have had policies in place when dealing with locker searches, student searches with probable cause, etc., school districts have not had metal detector policies in place.” He worked with the school board attorney and Indiana School Board Association on an appropriate policy.

At the board meeting, board member Chris Hunt, a former police officer, asked whether school personnel have been trained in how to use the devices, noting that they shouldn’t be used on people with certain medical conditions or on people in wheelchairs.

Board member Ann Kirschner said wands shouldn’t be used on people with cochlear implants to aid hearing. She asked for review of the policy’s provisions about how school personnel will respect student legal rights in using the wands.

“These devices have not been deployed in our schools yet and will not be deployed until we have policy approval by the school board, which is planned for the November monthly meeting,” Collins stated in an email on Wednesday. “At that time, we will work with our local law enforcement officials to train our selected staff for using these devices. At this time, we will train administrative staff on the policy guidelines and with the use of the devices.”

The policy outlines procedures for random searches on a group of students and with an individual student when school staff has reasonable suspicion that the student may have a weapon in his or her possession.

“We rely on our students to report such concerns, as well as our parents and staff if they see comments on social media or hear concerns or comments related to a weapon,” Collins said.

Kirschner and board president Leslie Jacobs recently attended a demonstration of the wands. Kirschner said, “These things are hypersensitive. They picked up a rod I had in a rib 35 years ago.”