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Proposal would govern use of metal detectors at Madison schools

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Students screened at La Follette

Students line up outside Madison La Follette High School on Sept. 27 to be screened with metal detectors after a shooting two blocks from the school left a student injured.

Madison students could face random and “as-needed” metal-detector screenings under a policy to be considered by a Madison School Board committee.

The proposal comes months after a student was injured in a shooting near La Follette High School, resulting in all students being screened with hand-held wands for two days.

The plan would establish policy governing the use of metal detector wands. No district policy on the use of metal detectors currently exists.

“It gives us another tool in our toolbox to keep schools safe,” said Joe Balles, the safety and security coordinator for the Madison School District.

The “as-needed” screenings could be prompted by “recent violence in the community or in response to an event in which additional security is required,” according to the proposal.

Balles said such situations would be similar to what happened at La Follette High School in September following a shooting two blocks away that injured a 16-year-old student.

About 1,600 students were screened with metal detector wands for two days as they entered the building while the suspects in that case were still at large, Balles said.

The Madison School District has not done random metal detector screenings, Balles said. The proposal would open that possibility. Balles said it could act as a deterrent for people bringing weapons into school buildings.

Under the policy, students would be screened by a staff member of the same gender. Those who identify as non-binary would be able to select who they want to screen them.

No individual student or group of students could be singled out for screening under the policy.

It also lays out a procedure for what to do if a metal detector were activated, with students first removing all metal items. If it is activated a second time, a student would be “escorted to a private area to determine the cause of the alert,” and two staff members would need to be present.

If a weapon were discovered or reasonably suspected, Madison police would be contacted.

Students and visitors with disabilities would be able to request to be excluded from screening “upon the need for a reasonable accommodation due to their disability.” A school’s principal would need to get administrative approval before a random or “as-needed” screening could happen.

The policy is expected to come before the full School Board on Feb. 25.

[Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove an outdated reference to a meeting that has since taken place.]


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Logan Wroge is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has been with the newspaper since 2015.

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