JCPS leaders discuss adding metal detectors to schools - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS leaders discuss adding metal detectors to schools

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Leaders with JCPS are discussing the idea of adding metal detectors to some schools.

Recently, a group of lawyers sent a letter to the JCSP superintendent requesting metal detectors be put in all middle and high schools.

Mike Raisor, the chief operating officer at JCPS, said he met with one of the co-signers of the letter and had a productive meeting. He said they are considering potentially visiting schools in Cincinnati to see how using metal detectors works there.

However, according to Raisor, this is not a new concept. In the past, school leaders have discussed the feasibility of adding more metal detectors to schools as another line of prevention.

Raisor said if he had an unlimited budget, installing metal detectors would still not send the right message, because research shows they create a hostile environment for students.

JCPS schools have detailed safety plans and leaders go through safety training monitored by Homeland Security and the FBI. Every day school is in session, gun and drug sniffing dogs search two schools randomly. And the alternative schools have metal detectors at their disposal. Raisor said he believes their current safety measures are adequate, but they still want to take every available option to keeps students safe.

One way school leaders work to create a safe environment is by establishing strong connections with students. Raisor said they teach conflict avoidance and mediation skills to students to help prevent disagreements from escalating. JCPS also has a bullying hotline. And teachers work to make sure students feel comfortable alerting staff to safety concerns.

A member of the Code of Conduct Committee with the Jefferson County Teachers Association and a second grade teacher, Chuck Bird said he makes sure all his students know that their safety is top priority in his classroom. But he also said, “It’s unfortunately something that the school can’t solve by itself.”

Bird said schools need to remain as a learning environment and metal detectors would make kids feel like they are incarcerated. The veteran teacher said he believes JCPS is doing everything to keep kids safe and teach them life skills and how to report danger.

"We work on behavior and discipline and how we should act not only as students but as people,” Bird said. “That's an ongoing proactive theme we're teaching at JCPS."

He said it will take a community effort to make sure that guns or other weapons never make it into a school building. Part of that effort comes in the form of Student Resource Officers (SRO). There are currently 28 SROs that work at different schools in JCPS. The group is made up of officers from LMPD, SMPD, JTPD, and deputies from JCSO.

Sgt. William Willhoite with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said he oversees eight SROs from his office. "I started as an SRO in 2009,” Willhoite said. “And I think the schools are much safer than they were."

Willhoite explained SROs fill three roles: counselor, teacher, and law enforcement. It takes a special temperament and character to work with kids on a daily basis and earn their trust. Willhoite said there are kids in these SRO’s offices every day discussing their problems and concerns.

"Kids have a lot of issues today,” Willhoite said. “There's just a lot of issues out there in society. And a lot of these kids get the brunt of it."

SRO’s also go into classrooms to teach students about the role of law enforcement, DUI and drug laws, and other topics that they will encounter in life.

"Unfortunately,” said Willhoite. “I've had some kids that I thought I impacted, but I didn't. Some of them aren't here today. But I have some kids that I have impacted. And that makes me so happy to stay connected to them.”

Finally, officers are on school campus to enforce the laws. Willhoite said the SRO’s work to have good relationships with the school administration and the students so they can determine whether harsh punishment or restorative justice will be more helpful in any given case.

"We can make this school safer by putting this here, locking these doors here, putting this alarm here,” Willhoite said. “The only thing keeping that from happening is money. But the kids –- it costs nothing to get into their heads and help them."

Related Stories:

Attorneys demand metal detectors at JCPS middle and high schools

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