Education Opinion

Balancing Student Safety and Dignity

By Walt Gardner — June 13, 2016 1 min read
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Is it possible to keep students safe from violence while also maintaining their dignity? That’s the question being raised across the country, albeit most notably in the Los Angeles Unified School District (“A backlash against Los Angeles schools as high-security fortresses,” The Christian Science Monitor, Jun. 3).

The LAUSD’s policy of conducting random searches with a metal detector wand is criticized for going too far because it allegedly traumatizes students. Critics point to a 2011 review of 15 years of literature on the effects of metal detectors that concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove their use had any positive effects on student and staff behavior or perceptions.

I understand why the use of such devices is so controversial. Schools are supposed to be secure islands for learning. Ideally, there would be no need to subject students to searches. But as events have proved time and again, that is not always the case. If I were a principal, I would rather err on the side of being overly cautious. Students may have their feelings hurt by intrusive measures, but they are alive. By the same token, airline travelers resent being wanded before boarding, but there have been no terrorist incidents since the policy began. Would the massacre early this past Sunday morning in an Orlando nightclub have occured if all patrons were wanded before entering?

In short, until I read about a surefire way of keeping schools safe while at the same time protecting student dignity, I’ll continue to support present wanding practices. It’s a small price to pay.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.