FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A Noblesville school shooting in 2018 sparked the Indiana Department of Administration to dole out more than 3,400 metal detector wands to school districts all over the state at a price tag of more than $350,000 of taxpayer money.
Today, those wands are used sporadically at best among local school districts.
And no metal detector wand was used in the finding of guns during four separate incidents at Fort Wayne Community Schools campuses in the past two months.
“Metal detectors are impractical, expensive and don’t work, but we have to keep our schools safe,” said Steve Corona, a Democrat on the FWCS school board representing District 5.
The school district, which has roughly 29,000 students total, asked for and received 25 metal detector wands from the state in the wake of a shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in which a 13-year-old student shot and injured a teacher and fellow student.
Since receiving the wands three years ago, the district has not had a formal policy for their use in place, though that might change in lieu of recent events, according to school officials. Those events include the following:
- On Aug. 26, police arrested a 14-year-old boy who tried to bring a gun into a football game at North Side High School.
- On Sept. 22, a school resource officer took a gun off a Wayne High School student.
- On Sept. 28, students at Haley Elementary School found a gun on the playground during first grade recess.
- This past Monday, a student was found to have a gun at North Side High School.
Still, any policy that involves using the wands on every student who walks through a school is not logistically possible, officials said.
“We have 25 of these wands, to scan every student every day would be impossible,” said district spokeswoman Krista Stockman. “We don’t have the staff, we don’t have the time, it would be impossible to do.”
Problems with the wands include properly training people to use them, properly training how to conduct searches, what those searches would look like and plus the added staff that would be needed to do those searches.
“That’s one of the things,” Stockman said. “You have to have the staff in place. If someone walks through and sets it off, you have to have someone else there to search the student, and you have to have a procedure around that. You have to have people properly trained to do those searches.”
“Those aren’t things most schools are set up to handle,” Stockman added.
As of now, the district has used the wands only when there is a suspicion that a student might have some sort of contraband – mainly vapes and vape pens, Stockman said.
Other districts in the area also received metal detector wands from the state and also use them sporadically.
East Allen County Schools received 38 but only use them when school resource officers suspect a student might have something he or she shouldn’t have and other very selective times, said district spokesman Tamyra Kelly.
“It’s been far and few between,” she said.
A statement from officials with Northwest Allen County Schools, which received 31 wands from the state, said:
“Northwest Allen County Schools appreciates having the metal-detecting wands as another tool available to us should a situation warrant use of them. Since we received them from the state in 2019, they have primarily been used for specific purposes such as a student search.”
Currently FWCS has student resource officers provided by the Fort Wayne Police Department at most of its middle schools and hires off-duty officers to provide security as well. But even with that staffing, using wands on 500 to 2,000 children walking into a school to begin the day would be impractical, officials said.
The school day would never begin on time.
“We got these devices five years or so ago, and the reason they were given out, there had been a tragedy,” Stockman said. “This was a response from the state to help schools, but again, it’s never been a completely adequate way to cover all school security.”
“Right now we’re in a different time five years ago, we’re seeing things in our community five years ago weren’t the same, things we didn’t see five years ago,” Stockman added. “We may need to look at those devices a little differently, maybe find a better use for them but also look at additional possibilities.”
School officials are planning to meet with police and other community leaders next week to discuss ways to keep guns out of schools, according to Corona.
“Well, that’s the problem, guns and drugs are a community issue, and they are bringing that issue into the schools,” Corona said. “We need to bring in community leaders, church leaders to talk about the fact this is not going to end well. This story is going to have a bad ending.”
During the four recent incidents where a gun was found, it was students who spoke up to school administrators. That’s something Corona is applauding.
“I think our students are very brave,” he said. “In every instance where we’ve had a gun in the school students have reported it to the main office. They are not afraid of reporting, of telling the superintendent, the principal, or other school leaders that, ‘I saw a gun in the school’ and they report.”
“I think that is very courageous of our students and they’re doing the right thing,” Corona said.