Philly middle schools to get metal detectors

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

I remember when they first started putting metal detectors in schools. It wasn’t to stop mass shootings–those weren’t really that much of a thing back then. It was to deal with kids who were involved in gang activity or wanted to at least act like they were.

It raised a major stink at the time, but we got used to it.

To say there’s some deja vu over this story from Philadelphia is putting it mildly.

In the face of rising gun violence, the Philadelphia School District is beginning periodic weapons screenings in all middle schools and elementary schools with middle grades, effective Monday.

The aim is to scan all sixth through eighth graders at least once before the end of the school year. Scans will happen with handheld wands or metal detectors by district safety officers in the presence of at least one school leader, according to a letter sent to families Thursday and obtained by The Inquirer.

“The district understands that this level of screening may feel intrusive and inconvenient,” the letter reads. “The Office of School Safety is committed to implementing this process with transparency and sensitivity towards the various and unique social, developmental and societal factors. School safety personnel will treat every individual fairly and with dignity and respect.”

Before they walk through metal detectors or are scanned by hand, students will have an opportunity to dispose of any “illegal or inappropriate items,” defined as firearms, pellet or BB guns, knives, cutting instruments, brass knuckles, nunchaku, electronic shock devices, mace “and any tool, instrument or object used or intended to be used to inflict serious bodily injury to another.” Students found to have weapons will be detained and referred to city police, the letter said.

When we talk about hardening our schools as a way to keep our children safe, this is one of those things that does just that. It’s not foolproof–there are ways around any security measure, after all–but it’s a damn good start, all things considered.

However, not everyone is thrilled with this move.

Shakeda Gaines, president of the Philadelphia Home and School Council, was aghast at the news.

“The School District of Philadelphia continues to criminalize our children and wonder why our babies do not want to go into these classrooms,” Gaines said. “This is not OK.”

Lady, if your “babies” weren’t bringing guns to school, none of this would be remotely necessary. Officials in Philadelphia can think of a lot of things they’d rather be doing than putting metal detectors in middle schools. Unfortunately, they don’t see they have an option.

And if having to go through this is criminalizing them, then I hope Gaines doesn’t fly anywhere. Airline passengers will enjoy knowing they’ve been “criminalized.”

Yes, I don’t like all that crap either, but I recognize that there’s no criminalization going on here.

Look, this shouldn’t be necessary. Yet, for some reason, middle school kids are bringing weapons to school. Since there’s a tool that can help with that, officials are going to use it.

After all, if they didn’t and a kid was killed, how many people would be up in arms about how the schools aren’t doing enough?