JC Board tables talk of metal detectors

More research needed before purchasing units for 11 district schools

MIFFLINTOWN — Juniata County school board members want to do more research before purchasing metal detectors for their 11 school buildings.

The board held a special meeting Thursday night to discuss school safety and the possibility of having metal detectors installed throughout the district.

Discussion was prompted by the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and alleged threats made by students within the school district.

The board voted 8-1 to table the soliciting of bids to purchase walk-through metal detectors, which are expected to cost about $1,895 per unit.

Only board member Mark Wagner voted against tabling the discussion.

Board members, in general, said they would want more information.

“I have a lot of questions about how we would implement a metal detector program,” said board member Heather Kelly. “I want some data and plans on how we would monitor them.”

Another board member, Amy Wagner, said she would be more interested in using the money to make sure staff were up to date on their training and investing in more secure vestibules.

Board member Troy Woodward suggested obtaining more input from teachers and community members before spending money on metal detectors, but he doesn’t think the district should put it off indefinitely.

“I think we need to do this now because, if we put it off and everything goes back to normal, it will get forgotten about,” he said. “We need to do it while we have the support from administration and the community.”

East Juniata High School Principal Ben Fausey said he feels the security vestibules at East Juniata were a worthy investment.

“Once the doors are locked in the building, our students are secure,” he said.

Juniata County School District Superintendent Keith Yarger said previously that when the elementary schools are consolidated, each will have a security vestibule installed.

Yarger said the district purchased three metal detectors about 20 years ago, two of which, he said, are no longer operational, and the third is used for the Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth program.

Juniata High School Principal Edward Apple said if metal detectors were purchased for all of the buildings, he would question how they would be monitored on a daily basis.

He said the number of weapons that are found by students in the alternative education program is very low.

“I haven’t seen a need to have them at every school,” he said. “I see a real issue with having every student go through the doors in a timely fashion.”

Apple said he would also be concerned with being able to have someone monitor the metal detectors, especially when students enter the building after school for school-related activities.

There was no discussion of whether the metal detectors would be used for public activities at the school, such as sports events and performances. Board member Christine McLaughlin said she would like to see a greater police presence at sporting events.

Fausey echoed Apple’s statements.

“I don’t think metal detectors will be the cure-alls. I think we need to check out school districts who already use them,” he said. “I would hate to buy them and realize we can’t sustain them. I think we should take our time and make logical decisions not based on emotion.”

In response to recent events, administration arranged a forum, which will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Juniata High School auditorium where local police will discuss how to talk to children about recent events that have taken place.

District Attorney Cory Snook will also talk about what happens if a child is charged with making a threat at school.