The DeKalb County Board of Education approved the lease of a new weapons detection system for middle and high schools.
The $8 million will lease a detection system for four years from Evolv Technology. It’s the same technology recently implemented in Atlanta Public Schools, and used at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Lenox Square mall.
The school district is on track to confiscate more weapons this school year than in any of the previous five years, interim Superintendent Vasanne Tinsley reported to the board Monday afternoon.
Evolv Technology said it can put the system in schools in as little as three weeks, Bradley Gober, the district’s executive director of public safety, told school board members.
“I think that the stakeholders and the parents and the students of DeKalb County should be very excited that they have a board of education and a superintendent that take safety and security so seriously,” Gober said.
The system allows people to walk through the detectors without stopping, emptying their bags or waiting in lines. School personnel will monitor the system, and can quickly intervene where the system identifies questionable objects. Only one person must monitor each entrance. There’s still a question of which personnel will do that, but Gober said the district has the manpower to operate the technology.
New board member Whitney McGinniss proposed postponing the vote to collect more information — but the rest of the board was ready to act.
“I don’t want to think of a life being lost,” said board Chair Diijon DaCosta. “I want to be able to be on the right side, proactively, to be able to help ensure that safety is the No. 1 priority of the school district.”
Board members in the state’s third-largest district have been considering a weapons detection system for at least five years. And over those years, the district has been confiscating more and more weapons from students, Tinsley said. The district found 310 weapons so far this year, she reported. That’s up from 235 weapons in 2018-19. Weapons, in this case, could be anything from a gun or knife to a slingshot or cigarette lighter.
In Georgia, there were 195 cases statewide in which a student was disciplined for bringing a handgun to school in the 2021-22 school year, nearly three times as many as in 2014-15, according to data from the Georgia Department of Education.
A DeKalb middle school student faces disciplinary charges after a gun was discharged in a classroom last month. There were no injuries.
In addition to the weapons scanners, the school board approved the $4 million purchase of a crisis alert system for all schools last month. Employees will be equipped with badges they can press to alert administrators and law enforcement in the event of an emergency. Gober said that system is on track to be functional by August.
Tinsley emphasized that the district is prioritizing student mental health and engaging families to help alleviate some of the problems the district has had with student behavior. Additionally, it’s been in the process of updating its camera system and creating security vestibules in the front of every school. It’s also been reminding students of its “See Something, Say Something” campaign and using K-9 units to seek out weapons and drugs.
“At the end of the day, we want our students to have a safe and healthy learning environment,” Tinsley said Monday. “But we also know that we must do whatever we can to make sure they are safe, healthy and whole.”
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Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution