RSS board signs off on metal detectors for football, basketball games

Published 8:55 pm Monday, January 24, 2022

SALISBURY — Rowan-Salisbury Schools will add metal detectors to the entrances of athletic events at all of its middle and high schools.

The district will purchase 20 portable detectors, giving it two for each high school and one for each middle school. The district will have one extra “floating” detector it can use for additional capacity or other district events. The RSS Board of Education approved the purchases on Monday.

The equipment will cost $179,152 and be taken from federal school safety funding. Chief Operations Officer Anthony Vann told the board it will take two to three weeks to get the detectors.

The detectors will be required for basketball and football games, but principals can request their use for other events. Vann told the board detectors are common at universities, and RSS staff had the chance to test them before Monday’s meeting, walking through with varying amounts of metal.

In addition to the detectors, front entrances will be manned by security. Some school staff are trained to perform additional security tasks such as running the detectors and using detector wands on people who trip them. They will be paid on a volunteer basis, but otherwise the district has contracted with the Charlotte firm Show Pros to run entrance security.

The beefed-up security is in response to a shooting at a basketball tournament in December held at the Catawba College gymnasium that left two juveniles injured. Shortly after the shooting, the district contracted for metal detector wands at athletic events while it looked for a permanent entrance security solution. Board Chair Dean Hunter said many of the board members have attended athletic events recently to see the measures for themselves.

“I’ve seen nothing but good,” Hunter said.

Vann said the district has been able to move attendees inside quickly at events and has received no complaints yet.

Vann confirmed the detectors are only for events and not intended for regular school days. Because they are portable, the detectors can be used in other areas as RSS chooses.

Rowan County Early College does not have athletics and will not receive a metal detector. Henderson Independent School already has metal detectors.

The board has also barred large bags and backpacks from events.

Vann said the district has used canine searches in the past in schools and is currently working with law enforcement and the district’s legal counsel to develop procedures for the searches.

“We want to make sure everything is crystal clear there,” Vann said, adding the goal of the searches is to keep drugs and weapons out of schools.

Chief Student Services Officer April Kuhn said the administration is planning to bring updates to the district’s code of conduct for the board to view in February.

“We want to make sure that we are evaluating how consistent we are across different infractions,” Kuhn said, adding the recommendations will be informed by data.

The district is also creating a community safety task force to assess issues that originate in the community but may impact schools.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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