CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WAND) - Champaign's school district has voted to install permanent metal detectors in its high schools due to recent gun violence.
Unit 4 had already been using mobile metal detectors during the last month at school events and during the beginning of school days, The News-Gazette reports. The use of the mobile detectors started on Sept. 22, which was a week after there were shots fired north of Centennial High School in Champaign and two weeks after a student brought a gun to the same school.
Superintendent Sheila Boozer said conversations with students who are afraid and looking for safety brought her to realize "we have to do something different and we have to do it now." This led to the decision for permanent detectors, which was made Monday night. The step "was not an easy decision," Boozer added.
“We’ve had shootings around our school, we’ve had BB guns in our school, we’ve had a student who was arrested because he was seen to have a weapon on him,” she said. “Kids told me that they want to feel safe in their schools, and it’s kids that deserve to feel safe in their schools. Several family members have sent emails asking we do this.”
Manpower is an issue with the mobile detectors, as they take about 20 people each time to operate. Boozer said she's searched bags and talked to students, but "that's a lot of time and effort and kids are missing out on their class time." Unit 4 Director of Information Systems and Network Security Valarian Couch gave an estimate that the new system will need about four employees to handle each day.
Another measure taken Monday by the school board included altering language about student searches and seizures. School officials no longer have to reach out to a parent or guardian before searching a student's personal property that isn't currently in their possession, like a bag or purse in a locker.
The district plans to pay for non-law enforcement search dogs to detect for gunpowder and drugs. It had previously used specially trained dogs from local law enforcement to search for illegal substances.
“The narrative that our schools are unsafe has to change,” Boozer said. “Looking what’s happening across our country and even right here in Champaign, it’s time, and not knowing what’s happening is making people uncomfortable.”