Indiana schools receive new handheld metal detectors while others opt out

INDIANAPOLIS – State officials say all Indiana schools that requested free handheld metal detectors should have them, fulfilling a promise to deliver the school safety tool by the start of the school year.

The program, announced earlier this summer for traditional public, charter and accredited non-public schools, allowed districts to request one wand for every 250 students.

A majority of schools requested wands, like Indianapolis Public Schools. IPS police officers have been using handheld metal detectors for years under a policy that includes random searches at middle and high schools alongside reasonable suspicion.

The new wands, given to IPS police officers, will only enhance those efforts.

“Certainly taking into consideration the dignity of those children and the inclement weather,” IPS Police Chief Steve Garner said, when discussing the policy. “It’s a tool. It’s a tool we have at our disposal to assist people in identifying possible threats to the safety of the schools.”

State officials say another round of requests will eventually open.

But already the Monroe County Community School Corporation board voted Tuesday night to not request the device.

“I title this an absolute no-win,” Superintendent Judy DeMuth said at Tuesday’s meeting. “And I’ve said that numerous times.”

Several board members voiced concern about the program alongside any unintended consequences.

“We’re damned if we do, we’re damned if we don’t,” Keith Klein said, a board member. “There is no win on this. I think the state of Indiana politically has done a very clever thing here and shifted the responsibility onto the school systems for not having the wands in the event something happens.”

For a lot of schools that just received wands, exact policies are still a work in progress.

“It will not be on every student, everywhere,” Robert Taylor said in an interview earlier this summer, Lebanon School Corporation superintendent. “It’s just logistically impossible for us to do that.”

For IPS officials, they call the wands a good tool, and say it has stopped students from bringing something they shouldn’t into school.

“It has never been a firearm,” Garner said. “It has always been a canister – a chemical spray or something they shouldn’t have, perhaps narcotics or contraband, something the school prohibits.”