Physical safety in schools is a main priority

By Kevin Moylett
April 12, 2015

The school setting has been something our society has committed to keeping safe. Being exposed to violence in schools has often led young girls and boys down a path of aggression later on in life. Weighing the violence that brings physical harm to students versus the school security that brings mental harm to students has become an issue.

Knowledge of what exposure to violence in schools can do to students has educators, policy makers, researchers and families continually searching for ways to reduce the risk of violence in schools. A way that has been used in many schools around the country is the use of metal detectors at the entrances.

“I had to go through metal detectors every day for four years in high school,” Ryan Weiner, Atlantic City High School alumnus, said. “I knew about the metal detectors before I decided to go to that school, so if I thought it was that big of a problem I would of went somewhere else. It’s not really a big deal.”

Metal detectors are thought to be a way to reduce the violence in the schools, although they can have negative impacts on the students.

“The student body shouldn’t have to pay because of the crime that goes on outside the school,” Molly Shea, Atlantic City High School alum, said. “It doesn’t feel good to be checked for drugs or weapons every morning right when you walk through the door like you’re some criminal.”

With metal detectors, less weapons are confiscated from students because they are aware of the metal detectors. This may imply that the weapons are coming to school less frequently, but possibly only because the students are aware of the metal detectors, making those metal detectors necessary.

“The metal detectors and the police at the school made me feel safe [and] my school was not in a good area,” Asmar Williams, Pleasantville High School alumnus, said. “I didn’t have a lot of choices when it came to what high school I wanted to go to. It was my only choice, just like most of the other students. Those students might not agree with me but school was a lot safer than the streets. A lot of my friends always complained about the security though.”

Overall, metal detectors are for a very limited number of school districts. In many circumstances, metal detectors are installed to appease parents and relieve a community of pressures.

“We decided with the information we gathered and how the parents felt about the safety of their children in our school that changes to the security were necessary. The violence is certainly less frequent now than it has been in the past before the extra security was implemented,” Rochelle Salway, former member of the Atlantic City Board of Education, said. “We try to keep the students focused on learning and not distracted about the security.”

Due to the perception that violence in schools is increasing, there has been greater anxiety among students, as well as lower levels of academic achievement and less satisfied student bodies, which has led to the metal detectors being put in place.

A study that was presented at the annual meeting of the “American Educational Research Association in 2006, An Association Between School Safety Structures,” included  students’ perception of the safety of schools. The study found that where there were a higher than average amount of school problems, the presence of metal detectors did not make the students feel like they were in a safer climate. In schools where there were an average number of problems, the metal detectors were associated with a lower perception of safety.

Based on their findings, the study concluded that there is insufficient evidence to decide if a metal detector offers benefits on behavior and or perceptions of safety in schools. As a result of increasing fears over school violence, both federal and state money are spent on metal detectors, when there is really little or no data to support the effects, potentially.

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Kevin Moylett

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