Knox Schools update policy regarding metal detectors

The Knox County Public Schools board held a special called meeting on March 12 to update a policy and procedure relating to metal detector use in the district’s schools.

“This deals with the safety of our children. We’ve got to dot a few i’s and cross a few t’s in relation to some policies we have to put in place,” said chairman Gordon Hinkle.

The two and only agenda items called to discuss and take action on revising Board Policy 09.436 and Board Procedure 09.436 AP.1, both which only have one reading due to an emergency situation involving student safety.

“What this policy amendment will do is update our policy to include the use of metal detectors in our schools,” said Superintendent Kelly Sprinkles. “All metal detectors are now at the buildings so before we go district-wide with the metal detectors, we want to make sure that our policies are up to date.”

The policy was reviewed by the Kentucky Schools Boards Association and board attorney Ashlee Valentine with only one minor correction made to the language.

“I just want to add some verbage in the situation of a pat down. The SRO (school resource officer) would perform the search or be present. If the student is of the opposite sex, then an administrator of that same sex can do the pat down. If the SRO is not available at that time, then administration can do that without them,” said Valentine. “If they Mirandize the kid before they search, then that evidence would be admissible in court if you had to take them to court. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be.”

Both the updated policy and the procedure, which outlines the use in administration of the metal detectors in our schools, were approved by the Board. A letter explaining the use of metal detectors was sent home by students on Tuesday and a final copy of the policy and procedure will be published on knoxkyschools.com once filed with the KSBA.

Since the policy and procedure have been board approved, schools across the district will begin using their metal detectors soon if they haven’t already begun so.

Sprinkles reported the Knox County Middle School has been piloting one metal detector and the process is going amazingly well, noting that the school has not seen a significant decrease in instructional time.

“We did the first day (lose instructional time), and then the second day, we were right at it. We get about 350 [students], or somewhere around there, in about eight minutes,” said Jeremy Ledford, KCMS principal.

“There’s no possible way to do it with a backpack…there’s no way you can search 500 backpacks,” continued Ledford, who said it’s the binders inside the backpacks that set the detectors off. “If they made a 3-ring binder that was just plastic, you could probably do ok with that. But nobody has time to check 500 backpacks.”

Sprinkles noted that every school in the district has different entrance procedures and the use of backpacks will be a school-by-school decision.

“We’re working with the schools individually…to make sure they (metal detectors) are as least disruptive as possible. At the end of the day…it’s the new normal, unfortunately, in our world,” concluded Sprinkles.