Students at Monongalia County’s three public high schools will have to walk through weapon detectors on their way to class this fall — but it won’t be like you think, Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. said Tuesday.
They won’t have to empty their keys and cellphones in front of a beeping, cumbersome device, he said.
The portable high-tech screeners, purchased in January by the company CEIA USA, are programmed and calibrated in such a way to discern the metal density, of say, a handgun (or larger weapon) or a large knife.
“Anything that could cause mayhem,” Campbell said.
Discussions on such preventive safety measures kicked up in December after a student at a high school in suburban Detroit was charged with fatally gunning down four classmates.
Numbers of Mon County parents rallied at the district’s central office following that incident, in fact, pushing for metal detectors to be installed in schools here.
Meanwhile, Campbell and other officials saw the devices while at a trade show the month before in Pittsburgh.
The company arranged a one-on-one demonstration in Morgantown, and the deal was done.
Then came the Michigan shootings.
Eight of the devices were purchased — Campbell didn’t immediately have the price — and they arrived here last month.
Then came the shootings in Uvalde, Texas, that saw the deaths of 19 elementary school students and two teachers.
“That stepped up the urgency to get everything tested and in place,” said Adam Henkins, the director of the district’s divisions of Safe and Supportive Schools and Athletics.
The devices were successfully tested at Morgantown High, University High and Clay-Battelle two weeks ago, he said.
“They’re the gold standard,” Henkins said.
“Disney uses them, and Major League Baseball and the NFL uses them,” he said.
“Concert promotors use them,” he continued. “You’re looking at crowds of 60,000 or 70,000, moving quick. And they’re lightweight and completely portable. You could have them at Morgantown High in the morning and then at Pony Lewis Field that night for a football game.”
Campbell, meanwhile, said two devices apiece will be put in place at MHS and UHS, given the student population and layout of the buildings.
One will deployed at Clay-Battelle, because of one central entrance and smaller student body, the superintendent said.
The three other devices will be enlisted as needed, he said.
“We’ll see how it goes at the high schools, then we’ll consider testing them out in the middle schools.”
The Michigan suspect in the meantime turned 16 behind bars, where he remains, along with his parents — who have been charged for not doing enough, prosecutors said, to aid their troubled son, as his teachers saw warning signs.
That’s while officials and advocates alike in Texas continue to debate what happened in the chaotic swirl of the shootings there — with a door propped open that shouldn’t have been and law enforcement waiting more than an hour outside for orders, while a gunman inside continued his fatal work.
It’s the “new normal,” Campbell, himself a former high school principal, said ruefully.
Even so, he said, the purchase of the high-tech detection system isn’t meant to signify a decay of old-fashioned checks and balances.
Mon’s buildings are still staffed with law enforcement personnel who serve as resource officers, he said.
There’s still a meticulous check-in process for visitors and students, and teachers and other employees still run through active shooter drills.
“I don’t want to suggest our buildings are no longer safe, because ‘safety’ is the word,” the superintendent said.
“This is just one more layer for our kids. That’s our job: To keep them safe.”