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Branch schools will check middle school students for weapons

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Branch schools will check middle school students for weapons

Pupils from sixth to eighth grades in Philadelphia will undergo periodic gun inspections beginning Monday, the school district said Thursday in a letter to parents. Screenings will be held at six schools a day. They will be held in every high school as well as in an elementary school with average grades at least once before the end of the school year.

The district said it is introducing new security measures in response to the rise in violence with weapons and weapons found in primary and secondary schools. For example, channel 6ABC reported that last month a gun was found in a student backpack at Juniata Park Academy in North Philadelphia. Children in Philadelphia are becoming more and more victims and perpetrators of gun violence – in a crisis city and school authorities have difficulty resolving during a pandemic.

“What our children are exposed to, what our leadership is exposed to, is abnormal. We have allowed this to be normalized in our space. That’s unacceptable, “said Kevin Bethel, Philadelphia’s head of school security. discussion of youth and gun violence organized by Chalkbeat last month.

But some parents and teachers are concerned that the use of metal detectors and similar approaches in schools will not make them safer and may send the wrong message to students.

The inspections will be conducted by a team of school security personnel who will use hand sticks or metal detectors to search for weapons. Screenings will take place in the morning, usually at the school entrance.

Students will be given the opportunity to drop any weapon before the test without consequences. Those who wish not to participate in the screening will be referred to the school administration. Any weapons found during the inspection will be confiscated and not returned.

The county defines as weapons the following: firearms, pistols or handguns, knives, cutting tools, nunchucks, brass knuckles, electric shock devices, maces, or any other tool or object used to inflict grievous bodily harm. Any student who owns a firearm will be detained and transferred to the Philadelphia Police Department.

“The district understands that the level of inspection can be obsessive and inconvenient. The School Security Office is committed to carrying out this process transparently and attentively to diverse and unique social factors, development factors and society. The staff of the security school will treat everyone fairly and with dignity, ”the letter to the parents reads.

Two years ago in Philadelphia The Board of Education voted put metal detectors in all high schools in the city, despite the public response. The new policy will affect 71 schools. Bethel did not respond to a request for comment from Chalkbeat on Friday about new security checks.

Asked about concerns that safety lines caused by screenings could make students late for classes, District spokeswoman Monica Lewis said: “We encourage students to come to school on time so they are ready for the start of the school day.”

District father Meredith Weber has argued that there is no evidence that child physical care and other similar restrictive physical measures improve safety at school or in society.

“However, there is evidence that these types of measures negatively affect school safety by eroding the school climate and the relationship between students and adults at school – two things that are vital for students to feel safe and thrive in school,” – said Weber. “The sudden announcement that students will be looking for adults at unpredictable times contradicts all the principles of helping students with injuries. Searches of children at school can also cause special harm to minority students and help make the school a prison. ”

Weber’s argument is supported by the National Association of School Psychologists. Group warned against too much reliance on security measures such as metal detectors, as such strategies can undermine the learning environment without necessarily protecting students.

The group suggested that there was no clear evidence that the use of metal detectors in schools was effective in preventing school violence, and little was known about the potential for unintended consequences that could accompany their adoption.

Caitlin McCann, who teaches seventh and eighth graders at General George A. McCall’s elementary and middle school, said that while she understands the county’s intent is to ensure the safety of students and staff at the school, the new safety checks look like a “reactionary” move. by officials. She also said the screenings would send a signal to students that they are a problem, instead of providing them with additional support such as counseling.

“It will completely disrupt our last month of training,” McCann said. “Many of my students think it’s a waste of time and resources.”

The head of the bureau, Johan Calhoun, covers K-12 schools and preschool education in Philadelphia. He oversees the education coverage at Chalkbeat Philadelphia. Contact Johann at jcalhoun@chalkbeat.org.

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