Lafayette Parish schools have made a major move to enhance security by implementing state-of-the-art weapons detection systems, extending their use to include elementary campuses post-holiday break. This initiative, already in place for middle and high schools since the beginning of the academic year, marks a comprehensive approach to school safety.

Assistant Superintendent of Administration and Operations, Jennifer Gardner, emphasized the importance of this measure, stating, "We’re set up and ready to go. There’s no reason not to include our elementary in the process as our middle and high [campuses]." Gardner further highlighted the initiative's objective, "It’s adding another layer of safety. Why should we draw a line because of an age?"

According to a report from The Acadiana Advocate, the school board sanctioned $2.3 million from the 2023-2024 budget for these sophisticated metal and weapon detectors. Unlike traditional metal detectors, the CEIA OPENGATE systems, similar to those used in major arenas like the Superdome in New Orleans, are more advanced. These portable pillars allow individuals to pass through without removing keys, phones, or other metals from their bags.

The process involves students walking through the detectors in a single file, with their backpacks either in front or on their back. In case the alarm is triggered, a secondary check will be conducted. Gardner reassured that setting off the alarm doesn't necessarily imply wrongdoing but is a part of ensuring safety.

The implementation of this system is seen as a learning experience, with other campuses like Milton Elementary/Middle School already adapting successfully. "It’s just like anything in life, nothing is perfect the first time you try it," Gardner noted, expressing confidence in the smooth and organic integration of this system.

Despite the proactive measures, some experts, like Jaclyn Schildkraut from the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium, caution about the limitations of such detectors and their effectiveness in preventing school shootings. Data from The Educator’s School Safety Network indicates that during the 2022-2023 school year, false reports of active shooters were more prevalent than actual shootings.

However, the district views these metal detection systems as one aspect of a broader safety strategy. This includes enhancing physical security with fewer entry points and fences, a standardized visitor check-in system, and ongoing professional development focused on safety, underscoring the district's commitment to creating a secure learning environment for all students.

See the full report here via The Acadiana Advocate.

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