State representatives propose study on metal detectors at schools

FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Making schools safer remains a top priority for state and school officials.

Recently, state representatives proposed a resolution to create a school metal detector study committee.

South Carolina Rep. Wendell Gilliard introduced the idea of requiring schools to install metal detectors last November. In a separate bill, he proposed a study committee be formed to see if metal detectors are in the public's best interests.

The bill passed in the House and is now being referred to the education committee.

Neal Vincent, Florence County School District Two's superintendent, said installing metal detectors raises a lot of questions, the main ones being cost and management.

"It's not as simple as putting the hardware and getting your technicians to set it up," Vincent said.

Right now, Florence County School District Two has handheld metal detectors for athletics events that cost around $150 each.

According to the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, at $4,000 per detector, the non-recurring cost to put three detectors per school in each of the state's 1,200 schools will be $14.4 million.

"We want safe schools. That's what our ideal world will have - metal detectors, staff - but you also have to balance out with the available funding that we have," Vincent said.

Another element to consider when implementing metal detectors is management.

"Do you have a staff? Do you have folks who are trained in law enforcement? Do you have teachers who are trained?" Vincent said.

It's even more expensive to manage the walk-through metal detectors if they require dedicated staffing. The recurring cost to school districts could be $98.3 million, according to the statement of fiscal impact.

"To implement a project like this we would need money (to) increase locally. We would have to have some assistance from the state level," Vincent said.

The metal detectors would have to be supervised around the clock, which if left up to teachers may cause a disruption in the classrooms, Vincent believes.

"When you look at implementing teachers for example, if we pull teachers out of the classrooms to run metal detectors who's going to start class on time?" he said.

For now, implementing metal detectors in the local schools is on hold. Instead, the district is focusing on other methods of prevention.

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