CHARLOTTE – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools plans to conduct random wand checks at high schools after the winter break, but Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said his district won’t consider using metal detectors at this time.
“One of the things we could not reconcile is queuing up hundreds if not thousands of kids outside of our high schools, because we thought that created another set of factors that we simply couldn’t control,” Wilcox said during a Nov. 16 press conference.
Wanding provides more flexibility than metal detectors because multiple people can check students simultaneously. It’s also more efficient because students don’t have to remove belts and other metal pieces.
Many campuses have multiple buildings, so someone could go back outside to retrieve a stashed weapon, he reasoned.
Wilcox said CMS won’t choose individual students to wand, but locations. The procedures and protocols are being worked out by trained professionals, not administrators, Wilcox said.
While wanding will begin in high schools, Wilcox expects middle schools will follow suit. Given the number of middle and high schools, he said it’s unreasonable to expect wanding every other day at a school, but maybe several times a month.
While the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Kerr Putney suggested everyone that walks into a school get wanded, Wilcox said CMS’s decision to wand randomly was an important first step.
“The difficulty that I have as a school superintendent, quite honestly, is I want school to feel like a safe place,” Wilcox said. “I don’t want students to feel like it’s such a lawless place that I have to run them through so many different traps that they are looking over their shoulders all the time.”
CMS will upgrade its camera monitoring system, focusing more on mobile classrooms. The district will also install electronic key-less entry systems on the front of every door in the main access portals of elementary, middle and high schools.
Staff will be updated on school safety plans and incident reporting. Teachers will receive panic cards, in which they can quickly notify law enforcement of their location.
CMS will add new social media monitoring resources, as well as strengthen its crisis communication plan with more frequent updates. A series of town hall meetings across the county will ask families what else it can do to keep schools safe. The district is also creating a video to show what happens during a lockdown and active survival training.
CMS is also going to invest in more guidance counselors social workers and psychologists.
Wilcox said the district will ask for more money to carry out these security upgrades, but won’t let cost stand in the way of keeping children safe.
He called on the community to help keep weapons out of schools.
“We must find ways to connect better across lines of difference to restore a stronger sense of community to address core issues of despair, fear and isolation in our larger community that also often end up causing violence at the schoolhouse door,” he said.