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Nash school board OKs random metal detector screenings

Michelle Fiscus presents results of a survey on school metal detector screenings during the Nash County Board of Education’s meeting on Tuesday. Board members Franklin Lamm and LaShawnda Washington are pictured from left. Hannah Whitley Camarena | Enterprise

NASHVILLE — Nash County Board of Education members on Tuesday unanimously approved a Student Support Services & Operations Committee recommendation to conduct random metal detector and wand screenings in all K-12 schools. 

Federal COVID-19 relief grants allowed Nash County Schools to buy 27 scanners. Middle and high schools already have metal detectors for use at athletic events. 

“We don’t want kids to be frightened,” or feel they are “in a prison-type situation,” said District 1 board member Doneva Chavis-Battle. Detectors in elementary schools should “be like a wonderland stepping through, something that makes it colorful,” she said.  

Screenings will start at the seven high schools because they have the lowest number of enrolled students. Board members agreed the inspections shouldn’t reduce class time or place more responsibility on teachers.

“I had to do it before as a high school principal and it was four hours, it was two entrances to the school; one was in the back one was in the front,” Superintendent Steven Ellis said, describing the atmosphere at Southern Nash High School after the Columbine killings.

Board member Dean Edwards cautioned that searching some students more often than others could raise concerns about profiling. Chavis-Battle and board member LaShawnda Washington said staff members who conduct the screenings should discuss the random selection process to ensure fairness.

Assistant Superintendent Leondus Farrow Jr. said school safety goes back to the “relationship piece.” He explained that a previous research presentation to the board boiled down to “the relationship that exists between students and adults in the building, because when children feel safe and when children feel like they have someone who advocates for them, then they are more likely to make adults in the building aware when they see something.”

Board member Franklin Lamm proposed drug dogs. Farrow said changes over time have made K-9 searches less accurate. 

Nash County Schools spokesperson Michelle Fiscus presented results of a student safety survey showing 86.3% of parents consider metal detectors “a welcome addition” and 87.49% agree the devices are “another measure to make schools safe.”

The searches prove far less popular with students and school employees, however. Survey results showed less than a third of sixth through 12th graders (28.84%) and under half of administrators (44.44%) and staff members (46.5%) welcome the inspections. More than half of administrators (58.33%) and staff (64.48%) said they contribute to school safety, while 46.78% of students in grade 6-12 agreed.

About 1,000 parents responded to the survey, and officials said the school district hopes to receive more parent feedback in the future.

No start date for the random screenings has been set. Administrators are in charge of implementing the safety checks at their individual schools. 

In other business, the board agreed to Executive Director of Technology and Innovation Tremaine McQueen’s request for 300 new interactive boards to replace old ones in secondary schools to improve learning, instruction and experience. CCW Technology will charge $2,278 for each board and mobile cart for a total of $729,529.50 over three years.