UPDATED: Fort Wayne public school districts unsure if they will accept Indiana’s offer of free hand-held metal detectors to schools

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a new state program Monday that would provide free hand-held metal detectors to schools and school districts that request them as part of state efforts to improve school safety. (AP Photo/Luis Romero)

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a new state program today that would provide hand-held metal detectors free to schools that want them. Fort Wayne public school districts said they need more details, however, before they can decide if it makes sense to participate.

“Controlling what comes into our school buildings is just one important part of keeping our schools safe, and our efforts to assist school corporations must be ongoing and evolving,” Holcomb said in the announcement, which also touted other school safety action take by the state. “Local officials are best positioned to determine their school safety needs and the measures that make sense for their students and communities, and — for many — these hand-held metal detectors could make a substantial difference.”

However, the wording about the program in the announcement and on the state website initially was confusing, referring to “traditional public, charter and accredited nonpublic schools” in the announcement and only to school corporations and school districts on the Indiana Department of Administration webpage about the program.

A state official offered clarification this morning:

• All public, charter, and accredited nonpublic schools are eligible to participate.

• Allocation of the metal detectors will be based on one metal detector for every 250 students in a school corporation or district, rather than by enrollment in individual schools within the district. Fort Wayne Community Schools, for example, had a 2017-2018 school year enrollment of about 29,400 students, which would make it eligible for 117 hand-held metal detectors.

For individual charter or accredited nonpublic schools, allocation of metal detectors apparently would be based on one metal detector per 250 students enrolled in the school.

Schools or school districts must file their request for hand-held metal detectors now through July 19 to receive them by mid-August, when many schools begin the 2018-2019 school year.

Orders placed after July 19 will be filled later in the fall, the announcement said.

Some school districts may be challenged to make a decision within the next week because many school administrators take their summer vacations during early July.

LOCAL REACTION

Local school officials reached Monday said they need more details about the program.

“Fort Wayne Community Schools has a comprehensive school security plan to ensure students and staff can learn and work in a safe environment,” Krista Stockman, FWCS public information officer, said via email. “This plan encompasses many layers of security, which we do not openly share with the public in order to maintain the integrity of the plan.

“We have not been directly notified of the governor’s plan to provide schools with hand-held metal detectors or what the expectation will be regarding training and use of the devices,” Stockman said. “No single device on its own can provide all the security we want for our students and staff. However, we will review the offer from the state and our security plan to determine how and if this fits in our plans. No decision will be made until we have extensive conversations with the FWCS board of school trustees and internal security staff.”

The Northwest Allen County Schools district certainly would look at whether to participate in the metal-detector program, but officials need more details from the state before they can make a decision, said Lizette Downey, NACS chief communications officer.

Southwest Allen County Schools (SACS) “is committed to the safety of our students and staff,” Stacey Fleming, director of district communications, said via email Monday afternoon. “Following Gov. Holcomb’s announcement today, we will be looking to learn more about the new program.”

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