PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — Virginia’s second-largest school district is working to make sure the risks to student safety are as low as possible by discussing past safety efforts and potential reforms in the near future.
At a joint meeting featuring the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and School Board, members reviewed the proposal first mentioned by Superintendent LaTanya McDade earlier this month — installing non-evasive security sensors in middle and high schools. They can detect weapons, but are less inconvenient than metal detectors because they don’t require students to remove their phones, keys, or other items.
After the meeting, DC News Now asked Peter Newsham, the chief of police in the county, about the proposal.
“We’ve had two incidents involving guns in our high schools,” Newsham said. “That’s two too many. We don’t want to have guns in our high schools, but we also don’t know how many guns are getting into the schools that we don’t know about.”
He went on to say the devices could help reduce that threat.
The devices are used right now in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina and PWCPS staff recently traveled south to look at how they work.
“I think if you do that in a very thoughtful way, you can do it with very little resistance,” Newsham said.
At the meeting, McDade said she believes “it’s necessary” and “it’s needed.”
“We’ve been hearing from families, from parents, who are saying they welcome this,” she added.
But still, she hopes to engage those stakeholders before making any decisions through in-person demos that could take place as soon as next month — that way, parents and students can offer their opinions.
There are some concerns. For instance, school officials said implementation would most likely be done in tiers — meaning, some schools would get them first, and then others later. It raises questions about which schools are picked, and how they are chosen.
However, it did garner some support from school board members, who watched a tutorial video on the devices at Wednesday’s meeting.
“This is a great policy,” Justin Wilk said. “It’s just going to be a matter of working with our Board of County Supervisors to fund it.”