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Random School Screenings For Weapons Added To CMS Security Plan

Gwendolyn Glenn
Charlotte-Mecklenboard school board members given presentation on tightenedsecurity plan

CMS is implementing tighter security measures than previously announced. The beefed up plans include more upgraded building locks, cameras and random searches for weapons, using wands and metal detectors. At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Superintendent Clayton Wilcox told members that the random searches will begin over the next few weeks. 

Wilcox says more cameras and monitors are being placed at schools to give them better views of playgrounds, mobile classrooms and other areas where observation is limited. He says by the end of the month, the installations will be completed at 26 schools. All other schools will be upgraded through June.

Credit Gwendolyn Glenn
CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox answers questions about upgraded school security plan

More than 300 locks will be installed across the district and the entrances of every school are being upgraded with digital access. Some schools have multiple buildings. All of those entrances will be upgraded as well. In addition, Wilcox says all employees’ badges will soon have the capability to instantly send out an alert for help during a threatening situation, identify their location and the level of the crisis.

“I wish that we weren’t in this position but we live in a society that guns that are all too prevalent,” Wilcox said. “Quite frankly, it’s not anything that I think any of the professional staff in this district ever thought they’d find themselves doing. But quite honestly the shooting at Butler changed the game in this community.”

Wilcox is referring to the fatal October shooting at Butler High of 16-year-old Bobby McKeithen. A fellow student, Jatwan Cuffie, is charged in the shooting. CMS officials say eight guns have been confiscated from students on campuses this school year.

In an effort to rid district schools of guns, the tightened security plan calls for random school screenings of students for weapons through the use of metal detection wands, portable metal detectors, and searches using gunpowder detection dogs. Wilcox’s chief of staff Laura Francisco says the random screenings will focus on high schools initially. She says at times all students at a selected school will be screened, all students in a random building or students in four or five classrooms. Francisco says in the classroom scenario, gunpowder dogs will be used to check for weapons.

Credit Gwendolyn Glenn
Laura Francisco, chief of staff to CMS Superintendent Wilcox, says screenings for weapons will be random

“The dog does not have contact with the students,” Francisco said. “The dogs goes into the classroom and works through the bags, backpacks and coats and the students are screened in the hallway using the wands and metal detectors.”

The surprise element of the screenings is what school officials hope will deter students from bringing weapons to school. Board member Erick Ellis Stewart expressed concern about schools being profiled in the random screenings that have large enrollments of students of color.

“We have to make sure we avoid that stop and frisk mentality. That’s why we’ve settled on whole school things where we’re not looking at somebody who has a sweatshirt on or baggy pants. We’re looking at every kid who comes through the door,” Wilcox said.

Credit Gwendolyn Glenn
CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox tells board of education student representative Kendall Sanders that students will not be able to opt out of the random screenings for weapons.

Wilcox says students will not be given a choice in submitting to the screenings. He says all searches will include male and female screeners. The security plan also calls for active survival training for employees, with 80 counselors, administrators and others being trained this week. A crisis director will also be hired to act as the point person during crisis situations. Wilcox says families will receive security updates and that communicating with them faster and more frequently during a crisis is a priority, something district officials were criticized of not doing during the Butler tragedy.

Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.