May 9, 2022 - News

Philadelphia middle schools start screening students for weapons

A student walks in front of the School District of Philadelphia's headquarters.
Photo: Paul Marotta/Getty Images

The School District of Philadelphia will begin screening and searching middle school students for weapons, starting Monday.

Driving the news: The district recently told families in a letter that the Office of School Safety will conduct "periodic weapons screenings" at six schools per day for students in grades six through eight.

  • The effort is in response to "an increase in gun-related incidents and violence" in the city, and aims to improve safety and "avoid potentially dangerous situations" in school buildings, the district said.

The big picture: Homicides reached historic highs in Philadelphia last year.

  • A total of 161 people have been killed so far this year, per police department data as of Saturday.

How it works: School safety personnel will use a metal detector or hand-held detector to search students in school entryways or other locations, like an auditorium, mostly in the mornings.

  • Students will also have their bags, backpacks and personal items inspected.
  • At least one school leader will be present during the searches.

What they're saying: "If students know that there is a chance they will be screened, it is the hope that they will be less likely to bring prohibited items to school," Christina Clark, a district spokesperson, told Axios.

Of note: The district said in the letter that students who choose not to participate will be referred to school leadership, but didn't elaborate further or immediately respond to Axios' request for comment about opting out of screenings.

The other side: Erin Gill-Wilson, executive director of advocacy for UrbEd, called the use of metal detectors "despicable."

  • "Metal detectors detract from a welcoming school community and reinforce the false narrative that young Black kids are criminals," she told Axios.

What's next: The screening policy for middle school students is in effect through at least the end of the year, Clark said.

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