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City School Board approves metal detectors in middle schools

George Copeland Jr. | 12/7/2023, 6 p.m.
In an effort to reduce weapons coming into in the schools and to ward off increased incidents of violence, Richmond ...

In an effort to reduce weapons coming into in the schools and to ward off increased incidents of violence, Richmond Public Schools will install metal detectors in every middle school early next year.

Richmond School Board members approved the safety proposal during its Monday night meeting at River City Middle School. The total cost of installation is projected to be around $118,000.

Kenya Gibson, who represents the 3rd District, abstained from voting due to a lack of information on other safety concerns such as side doors.

Metal detectors will be installed and added to River City, Albert Hill, Dogwood, Lucille M. Brown, Martin Luther King and Henderson, a decision that comes after a survey of middle school students, faculty and families about potential safety measures.

Currently, Thomas C. Boushall Middle School is the only middle school with metal detectors installed. Richmond Alternative School and the Richmond Technical Center also have the detectors. All of the city’s high school have metal detectors, according to published reports.

“I wish I didn’t have to, but I fully support the inclusion of metal detectors for all the reasons that our stakeholders identified in the survey data,” said 4th District Representative Jonathan Young.

Besides Ms. Gibson’s concern over unaddressed areas of safety, some board members expressed concern about the possible contribution to the school-to-prison pipeline that metal detectors could bring to schools.

Nicole Jones, who represents the 9th District, and Board Chair Stephanie Rizzi also raised the need for more restorative policies and alternative methods to metal detectors in response to student conduct and incidents, and expressed concern about the environment metal detectors could create for students.

“I feel bad about this, but I’m glad my children have graduated because I would not want them to walk through a metal detector every single day,” Ms. Rizzi said. “I don’t think anybody really wants that for their children.”

Nevertheless, board members opted to approve the proposal based on the input of the RPS community in the survey, with 61% supporting the addition of metal detectors as a safety precaution and 74% believing they could reduce the possibility of weapons in schools.

In contrast, 23% of those surveyed saw the addition of metal detectors as harmful to the education experience of students, and 29% believe their presence contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline