Multiple studies argue that metal detectors are ineffective at preventing violence in school settings. With limited utility as a physical security measure, it is no wonder that metal detectors have not significantly affected violence in educational facilities.
What they most often do is cost a fair bit to install and add a prison-like atmosphere among students. Here are alternatives to metal detectors in schools that have been shown to have promise at minimizing violence.
Alternative #1: Clear Backpacks
Following the Uvalde shooting, a clear backpack policy has been instituted in several parts of the United States, most recently in Texas. A clear backpack means clear visibility into what a student is carrying. It promotes a sense of safety, security, and transparency.
This isn’t to say that suspicious or dangerous items couldn’t be hidden, but overall, clear backpacks are a far less intimidating and invasive strategy than metal detectors.
Alternative #2: AI Security Screening
AI security screening is like going through a metal detector, except these machines can work much faster and unobtrusively. Consider them a more effective upgrade in metal detection with the ability to do more than traditional metal detectors can.
AI security screening can scan students for guns, knives, and similar prohibited items. When an AI-powered sensor detects a threat, security personnel is notified, and the threat can be handled quickly and privately. AI security screening is already in use at stadiums and ticketed event venues. They work similarly in a school setting.
Alternative #3: Random Searches
Random searches are effective if a serious security threat is present or a school wishes to be overly cautious. Random searches of select lockers and bags for dangerous items can sometimes yield surprising results. The random aspect of these searches is integral.
Any sort of profiling is a no-no. For this reason, some schools may find random searches to be more difficult and time-consuming to carry out.
Alternative #4: ID Badges Or RFID Tags
A policy to have all students, teachers, and staff wear ID badges or RFID tags allows security professionals to monitor who enters and exits the premises. This can sometimes be combined with security at entry/exit points to verify IDs. RFID technology ensures that a user doesn’t have to swipe to be logged in on entry/exit.
This is comparable to putting a tracker on all personnel, ensuring only authorized parties are allowed past a certain point.
Alternative #5: Regular Safety Drills
A metal detector is all about removing a threat from a school setting. A safety drill teaches students and teachers what’s expected of them in response to an emergency.
Drills may not prevent a security threat but could minimize the damage caused by violence. For this reason, we consider safety drills as an alternative to metal detectors in schools and complementary to other strategies.
Alternative #6: Security Cameras
Security cameras are out of the way and provide key visibility into parts of the school grounds that personnel may not have 24/7 monitoring on. Cameras can identify potential threats and detect suspicious behaviour, especially with AI security software.
With modern smart technology, they’re also very affordable. Users can install them at entrances, hallways, and parking lots, capturing daily data.
Alternative #7: School Safety Officers
School safety officers are a form of security personnel that can oversee premises and school events. They are there not to enforce or police but to improve safety and add to the perception of safety.
A safety officer may also be directly involved in planning school safety initiatives and establishing or maintaining safety protocols. School safety officers go by many titles, but ultimately, they offer human assistance when needed and help identify threats.
Alternative #8: Properly Trained Staff
A part of school threat mitigation and emergency preparedness is ensuring your staff knows how to prevent, prepare, and respond to an emergency, such as violence on school grounds or an active shooter. This requires training and having the right security and communication systems in place.
Teachers are authority figures. There’s one in every room. They can see things on the ground that a security camera may not be able to catch and identify suspicious behaviour faster than anyone. Ensure they have the support and training to act.
Alternative #9: Mental Health Support
Mental health support is as strong a security measure as any other, especially when dealing with young adults and school-age individuals. Simple counselling and therapy can help students manage anxiety, stress, and depression and identify violent or dangerous behavioural issues before they present in the form of violence or an immediate security emergency.
Access to mental health support can be non-existent for many people, so it may be one of the more valuable strategies in the battle against school violence.