Private security personnel using gun detectors will scrutinize Salt Lake City teens when they return to class this fall. This “hardening” of security measures was approved by split school board members in a split vote on Tuesday.
The Salt Lake City School District and the four high schools that have detectors have been working on protocols to inform families about the new level of surveillance, to explain to students how the system will work, and to describe the interactions between the assigned guards and the Restrict students, said Superintendent Elizabeth Grant.
There will be an open house in the community on the topic of guards and detectors, but the date has not yet been set, district spokesmen said.
The county’s plan to install gun detectors in West, East and Highland high schools dates back to December when company administrator Alan Kearsley notified board members. He said in January that the district had approved requests from the three principals for a second security coordinator on each campus to help operate the detectors.
Ashley Anderson, who joined the school board in January, said members have since been told the plan to use district staff was “unsustainable”.
Instead, on Tuesday the board debated — and agreed by a 5-2 vote — to approve a $1.1 million purchase order for PalAmerican Security Inc. to staff the detectors, including an additional system in the Horizonte Instruction and Training Center.
Anderson and board member Mohamed Baayd voted against the order.
Before the board vote, Superintendent Elizabeth Grant said she supports the new safety measures. The guards have yet to be hired, Kearsley said, as the company awaits approval of the recruiting job.
“As Superintendent, I want to use every tool available to ensure the safety of our staff and our schools,” Grant said, adding that the gun detectors are part of an overall safety strategy for the district. “We’re living in rather unthinkable times, so I just wanted to express my support for making them happen.”
In January, the current board members approved a $1,440,298 spending to lease gun detectors for West, East and Highland High Schools from Stone Security LLC for four years. On August 1, the Board of Directors approved an additional purchase order for $123,113 for the Horizonte Instruction and Training Center.
“A million dollars more for an unproven model”
Anderson opposed the plan to hire security guards, saying research showed that “this kind of hardening” provided “virtually no protection against school violence.”
She added, “What worries me even more is the body of public health and police de-escalation investigations that show undeclared officers — like those on the PalAmerica contract.”[n] – risk an escalation of violence, especially for people of color.”
A 2021 Department of Education, Homeland Security, Justice and Health and Social Services report said: “The impact of metal detectors, X-ray machines and similar screening technologies on violence in schools is questionable, and at least one study comes to this That’s it.” Metal detectors do not appear to have any impact on reducing violence on campus.” It referenced a RAND Corp. report. from 2016, which came to this conclusion based on 15 years of research.
“We’re being asked to put an extra million dollars into an unproven model,” Anderson said.
Students “are already under so much stress,” Baayd added, and gun detectors could make things worse, especially for marginalized students.
“I think of the minority children who came from the refugee world and from war zones,” Baayd said. If you walk through a detector and it “beeps,” he said, “it’s a nightmare.”
And so Baayd said that for the first six months he would like to see monthly updates on how many students were stopped, why they were stopped and the gender and race of the students, because “there will be human error involved.” as well as.”
CEO Nate Salazar said he can see both sides, “especially as a person of color, as a man of color moving through the world with his own fears, much like my fellow board member Baayd.”
Vice President Bryce Williams noted that in previous board discussions, “parents have asked us to have these detectors in order to … also have staff for security measures like this.”
Those supporters included parents “from different backgrounds and different experiences,” he said. “I want to play it safe and… give these detectors and staff a chance for a while.”
Board member Bryan Jensen agreed with this approach; Board members Kristi Swett and Jenny Sika voted in favor of the order without discussing its rationale.
“You want to implement this”
Grant, who joined the district in July, told the board she had met with high school principals. They all “confirmed that they support the implementation of these measures in their schools,” she said, “that while they have spoken to their communities, they also want to implement them.”
The proposal to install the gun detectors came from school principals, Kearsley told school boards in December. Although principals from other county high schools and middle schools were also interested, Kearsley, for budget reasons, suggested starting with West, East, and Highland.
In addition to the $1.4 million for the four-year lease of the detectors, the plan would cost about $194,000 for the three additional security coordinators.
With the exception of Anderson and Jensen, who were elected in November and joined the board in January, the other five current members were on the board at the time. However, at Kearsley’s December briefing, the only board member who raised a question about the idea of installing gun detectors in schools was student representative Lydia May, then a West High senior.
“I’ve heard from some students who are very supportive of gun detectors and I’ve heard from some students who are not supportive at all,” May said.
“The people who aren’t supportive are concerned about possible bias or how that might increase profiling in schools,” she said, “and so my question is: what kind of anti-bias training do security coordinators get?”
Kearsley replied: “The gun detectors are actually biased because they don’t profile a specific child; It’s like the gun detectors spot something on a kid, then the kid is taken into a small search room and they discuss, “Hey, the gun detector said that, let’s see what you have in your backpack.” The gun detector has one zero bias; it just looks for metal.”
District staff then added that anti-bias training was being developed for coordinators.
Current student representative on the board, Jaziayah Evans, said Tuesday that she supports the implementation of the district’s plan, “but it would be important to revisit it later.”
Currently, a student found with a gun could face a suspension or expulsion and also be referred to the district for a “safe school hearing,” according to district policy.
Going forward, Anderson said the board should approve a plan that includes “a communications strategy and how to implement it,” rather than “providing direction to do these things.”
“I think there was this idea, we approve it so that a plan can be made,” she said, “and now we’re at a point where the plans haven’t been implemented and there’s been school evenings and orientations again, and “People don’t know what’s happening.”