Although Milwaukee Public Schools has backed off from purchasing 16 new X-Ray-style metal detectors, members of a youth advocacy group say they will continue their fight to abolish the machines as well as police from all schools.
“Right now, young people in Milwaukee Public Schools suffer through a harsh school environment with metal detectors at the front door and severe exclusionary school punishment such as suspensions and expulsions,” said Dakota Hall, the executive director of Leaders Igniting Transformation, or LIT, which focuses on social and racial justice issues.
“We plan to fight for the resources necessary to ensure that every school is equipped with the quality staff, including teachers, nurses, social workers and counselors that young people deserve,” Hall said.
The school board’s Committee on Accountability, Finance and Personnel voted 3-2 on Oct. 22 to deny a proposal to purchase the metal detectors. The five-year contract with ADANI Systems would have cost the district $217,000, with the new machines replacing 12 detectors in operation at MPS.
District spokesman Andrew Nelson wrote in an email to NNS that walk-through metal detectors have been in operation at MPS for more than 10 years. Currently, 18 MPS middle schools and high schools use metal detectors, while 12 also use X-ray machines to scan bags.
He said there have been 15 incidents in MPS schools involving firearms or other weapons so far this school year and 40 last year. The specifics of those incidents were not provided. According to a running Washington Post database, there have been nine school shooting incidents at U.S. schools so far in 2019.
Most research examining whether metal detectors make schools safer has found no clear evidence that they reduced violence. A comprehensive study on school security measures, including metal detectors, published in April in the journal Violence and Gender, found that they don’t keep students safe from gun violence.
The study stated that visible security measures such as metal detectors and cameras can help to alleviate student and parent fears, but that increased mental health services and educational programs aimed at reducing violence could be more effective.
Tony Goglio, whose son attends Bay View High School, is against more advanced security measures, but he acknowledged there are limitations to the current metal detection devices being used.
“It fails to catch many things. Kids work around them by putting things in their shoes,” Goglio said.
Still, he said, “mass shooters will not be deterred, much less stopped by a metal detector or sign.”
Other parents expressed support for increased security measures.
“I think any extra level of security is a good thing. I don’t see any drawbacks,” wrote Emme Maldonado, in a Facebook post.
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