Education Opinion

Student Safety Requires Trade-Offs

By Walt Gardner — November 30, 2015 1 min read
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Correlation is not causation, but I believe a strong case can be made in favor of retaining metal detectors in public schools (“New York City’s schools debate removing metal detectors,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 22). New York City is a case in point.

Metal detectors were installed more than two decades ago at the city’s most dangerous schools. No student has been shot in the school system in 13 years, prompting a demand for removal of the scanners. I can’t prove that the existence of the devices is the reason that the schools are safer. But I would rather err on the side of caution despite the fact that almost half of black students are scanned daily, while only 14 percent of white students are.

Critics cite the disparity as evidence of racism. But they are often the same people who say that black lives matter. They can’t have it both ways. Because crime in New York City has plummeted, particularly violent crime, that doesn’t mean it can’t rebound. If I were a principal, I would not let my guard down to placate these critics. I wish that scanners were unnecessary, but the safety of students must always be the top priority.

We tend to believe that suburban schools are safe. But have we forgotten Columbine and Sandy Hook? I wonder if those tragedies could have been avoided if metal detectors had been in existence. There are no guarantees, but nothing is as precious as the safety of students.

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.