FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS) faced a problem in 2022 when several guns were found on students in school.

Now, a proposed health and safety referendum looks to address some of those concerns.

“We’re looking forward to moving this referendum to reality,” said FWCS Superintendant Mark Daniel.

One of the ways the district will try to solve issues is with weapon detectors at each high school.

“These right now are planned to be in every high school,” Daniel said. “We are working toward every middle school and then we’ll have the discussion, do they need to be in every elementary school.”

The detectors only pick up weapons and don’t alarm when smaller items like keys or phones pass through.

“You don’t have to take cellphones, keys, wallets, purses, book bags, water bottles, common things you would have in your pocket, you don’t have to remove them,” said John Nichter, owner of Upside Event Management. “What it’s searching for is those weapons of mass destruction.”

The machines, which have a $17,000 price tag, were demonstrated before a referendum information meeting on Thursday night.

At the meeting, the district unveiled its current plan for the referendum and asked for feedback from parents.

“It made me feel like it’s a little too late, but it’s not too late,” said Irene Zamora, whose children have already, or are close to graduating. “I like that they’re trying to up the security in schools. I am all for the metal detectors.”

However, some students present said that they felt some of the measures went a little too far and would like the school to be careful when adding too many safety measures, particularly adding more student resource officers (SRO).

“I feel as if it would scare kids a little bit, so I don’t necessarily think we should bring more (SROs),” said Jada Beal, a senior at South Side High School.

It’s something the district is keenly aware of: their own presentation admits that 79% of parents said their child’s school is safe, and that 80% of students say staff members know safety procedures.

That makes riding the fine line between safety and not making schools feel like security checkpoints hugely important to the district.

“Safety is the point, and again making it as non-present and non-visible as possible,” Daniel said. “But again, we need to be realistic and take proactive steps.”

Another way safety has been instituted in the district has been through the effort of the Peacemaker Academy who also presented during Thursday night’s meeting.

The group is a nonviolent leadership development program for rising sophomores, juniors and seniors at South Side High School.

Peacemaker Academy looks to improve school safety and student lives through principles and interactions with students.

It’s a system that some students say is more impactful than adding SROs or other technological safety measures.

“We stand on the principles of non-violence,” said Dazhon Ware, a student involved with Peacemaker Academy. “What would make school better for me is more interaction, not just an administrator being an administrator, but more things where we are involved with one another.”

Whatever the way forward is, FWCS is trying to put student safety first, but the question is at what cost?

Right now, FWCS estimates that the rate increase would be around $6 per month.

There are additional meetings where parents, guardians and students can listen to the district’s plan and provide feedback.

  • Wednesday, May 17, 6-8 p.m., Snider High School, 4600 Fairlawn Pass
  • Tuesday, May 23, 6-8 p.m., Northrop High School, 7001 Coldwater Road
  • Monday, June 5, 1-3 p.m., Wayne High School, 9100 Winchester Road