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Alexandria (Va.) district will add metal detectors

March 17, 2023

The Alexandria (Va.) school board has approved the installation of weapon-detection systems on four campuses as part of a pilot program addressing concerns about weapons in schools.

The Washington Post reports that the scanners, which use engineering and artificial intelligence to detect weapons, will be activated in May. The board action follows incidents involving weapons at the city’s schools.

District administrators said community survey found wide support for detectors in schools. About 85% of more than 4,300 respondents supported installing the screening equipment in all or some schools; 58% supported use in all schools.

Each detector will cost about $13,000 for mobile equipment and $60,000 for fixed equipment. The pilot program would use a combination of the two.

More schools have been bolstering their security systems in recent years. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics show that 43% of schools reported in November that they had panic buttons or silent alarms with a direct connection to law enforcement, an increase from 29% during the 2017-18 school year. Nearly 65% of schools now have anonymous or confidential threat-reporting systems. Only about 6% of schools reported using metal detectors in schools.

Alexandria schools reported 28 incidents of weapons during the 2021-22 school year, and more may have gone unreported, officials said. Last week, Alexandria City High School was locked down after a teacher discovered a 14-year-old student with an unloaded handgun, city officials said. The student was charged with possession of a firearm on school property.

The scanners will be installed at Alexandria City High School’s King Street and Minnie Howard campuses, and Francis C. Hammond and George Washington middle schools.

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