News

Survey: Majority of Alexandria students, teachers and parents support metal detectors in schools

Advanced metal detectors will be used for a pilot program in two Alexandria City Public Schools locations as part of a pilot program (via ACPS)

A new survey shows widespread support for the installation of metal detectors within Alexandria City Public Schools.

There were 4,374 respondents to the survey, which ACPS opened on Feb. 24 and closed on March 8. Included in the survey were 1,181 students, 609 staff, 2,295 family/guardians, and 289 community members. About 85% of survey respondents supported using weapons screening equipment in all or some schools, and 58% of respondents want the metal detectors in every school.

The news comes as the Alexandria School Board on Thursday (March 16) will give final consideration to a pilot program to install metal detectors at the city’s middle schools and high school. If approved, the “advanced weapons abatement technology” will be installed next month in both Alexandria City High School campuses and at the city’s middle schools. The program would go live in May, before the end of the school year.

About 80% of respondents said they wanted the metal detectors to make the school system safer, and 72% reported that weapons entering schools are a significant concern/problem. About 65% of respondents also said that metal detectors crate a less anxious environment, and 49% said that the metal detectors are a much needed security upgrade for the school system. A majority of those against the proposal (59%) responded that the metal detectors detract from a welcoming feeling within schools, 32% were concerned with the cost of the equipment, 20% said weapons are not a significant problem, and 19% said that the current safety protocols are adequate.

There were 15 weapons-related incidents in the first two quarters of the 2022-2023 school year, and weapons seized include knives, brass knuckles, stun guns/tasers, a BB gun and pepper spray, according to a school safety report. ACPS began the school year last August with new security upgrades, like the installation of door alarms, upgraded security cameras, a new student ID process and a new visitor and emergency management system.

It costs $60,000 for every affixed metal detector, and $13,000 for mobile detectors, the latter of which would be used for outdoor athletic events and as-needed. The devices use artificial intelligence to detect weapons, while students, staff and guests can freely walk through them without emptying their pockets or bookbags in a lone line.

ACPS will need at least four units for Alexandria City High School’s King Street campus alone, and up to three units at the Minnie Howard campus, Alicia Hart, the ACPS chief of facilities and operations, told the Board last month. It was not clear how many will be needed for the city’s two middle school campuses.

The survey results are below.

Students:

  • 44% (519 students) want the metal detectors in all schools
  • 29% (337 students) only want metal detectors at the middle schools and high school
  • 28% (325 students) want no metal detectors

Staff:

  • 58% (356 staff members) want the metal detectors in all schools
  • 33% (198 staff members) only want metal detectors at the middle schools and high school
  • 9% (55 staff members) want no metal detectors

Family/Guardians:

  • 65% (1,484 family members/guardians) want the metal detectors in all schools
  • 25% (577 family members/guardians) only want metal detectors at the middle schools and high school
  • 10% (234 family members/guardians) want no metal detectors

Community members: 

  • 63% (182 community members) want the metal detectors in all schools
  • 20% (59 community members) only want metal detectors at the middle schools and high school
  • 17% (48 community members) want no metal detectors