HAMPTON, Va. – The City of Hampton Schools Division is expanding the use of Bluetooth-powered weapon detection systems to prevent guns and knives from entering school buildings.
“We are doing everything we can to make sure our children are safe,” said James Bailey, a former Hampton police officer and current City of Hampton Schools Safety Supervisor. “I hope we don’t find anything. We want children to make good choices.
According to Hampton School District officials, they launched the weapons detection system in their high schools last year. This year, they have expanded the devices to district colleges, pre-K-8 schools and the Kilgore Gifted Center.
“I feel safer in some ways,” said Jayden Ellis, a student at Kilgore Gifted Center.
“If it’s an extra layer of precaution and safety, I’m okay with it,” Jayden’s mother, Nicole Ellis, said. “That’s one of the main priorities, to make sure that [my son] goes to school and comes home safe and sound.
Bailey said the district’s weapons detection systems, which cost $12,000 per unit, are designed to detect guns and knives. Students must pass through detectors upon entering the building daily. The devices are portable, allowing them to be easily transported for use at larger school events.
“It’s the same thing [type of] units that Busch Gardens uses across the country,” Bailey said. “We focus on a safe and nurturing environment. We don’t want our schools to look like a prison is coming.
“Before they can teach kids, they need to know, first of all, that they’re safe,” said Dwayne Lucas, principal at Tarrant Middle School in Hampton, where the devices debuted this school year. “It’s so important to make sure we’re proactive.”
A spokesperson for the City of Hampton Schools said they plan to expand the devices to all of their elementary schools in the future.
The News 3 investigative team also learned that Portsmouth Public Schools trialled the devices at Manor High School last year and that they plan to install them in all of their high schools and colleges by the end of the year. ‘year. Norfolk Public Schools and Suffolk City Public Schools division heads said they were also considering using the units on their campuses.
“If I have to go through the airport, or go to the amusement parks and they are [using these devices], I just hope it works. It mitigates some damage,” Nicole Ellis said.
While there are growing calls for metal detectors in schools across the country in light of the Texas shooting, there are criticisms.
“I get the feel of a metal detector, like every day is extreme,” student Kiara Alexander told a special school safety forum. “It’s just the feeling, phew.”
The focus on the use of metal detectors in Hampton Roads school districts increased when a Newport News student brought a gun to Heritage High School last year and shot and injured who of his classmates. News 3’s investigative team has learned that Newport News Public Schools has metal detectors in its middle and high schools, and they are being used randomly every day. Other Hampton Roads districts have similar policies.
Additionally, division chiefs from all seven cities confirmed that additional measures were in place to improve school security, including school resource officers, staff trained as school security officers, security cameras , anonymous reporting lines and visitor verification systems.