The Buffalo Board of Education should move cautiously as it weighs proposals to improve school safety. Besides the staggering cost for a district already facing a $52 million deficit, installing metal detectors in all the city’s high schools may not even do anything to prevent school violence. Ample research has concluded that metal detectors and other aggressive police tactics do not improve school safety. Even the U. S. Secret Service has found that metal detectors are unlikely to stop school shootings.
However, herding children through metal detectors every day creates a distraction incompatible with a nurturing educational environment. It leads to intrusive searches that often trigger confrontations between students and security personnel, damaging students’ perceptions of the police. Moreover, administrators and students often complain about loss of class time and academic performance due to delays caused by lines at the metal detectors.
A better way to promote safe schools is to focus on building trusting relationships between educators and students. That way, students will feel comfortable approaching a teacher or administrator if a classmate brings a gun to school, which is exactly what happened at West Campus School.
Director, Western Regional Office of the New York Civil Liberties Union
The New York Civil Liberties Union is a state affiliate of the ACLU