Editorials

At KC-area high school football games, are metal detectors becoming the new normal?

Visitors now go through security in Westport on weekends

In 2018, Westport rolled out new security measures for patrons entering its entertainment district. From 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, guests are asked to empty their pockets, show their ID and walk through a metal detector.
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In 2018, Westport rolled out new security measures for patrons entering its entertainment district. From 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, guests are asked to empty their pockets, show their ID and walk through a metal detector.

This week, Hickman Mills became the latest school district in the metro area to beef up security at athletic events.

In a letter sent to parents, Superintendent Yolanda Cargile wrote that all guests will undergo security screenings at Ruskin High School home football and basketball games. The screenings, which begin Friday, will include metal detectors and a hand wand.

The district joins a list of professional, collegiate and high school athletic venues in the region and across the country that use metal detectors or wands. And while some will protest such visible and restrictive security measures at school events, the Hickman Mills district is acting prudently by erring on the side of keeping students safe.

At Hickman Mills athletic events, backpacks are not allowed, and students must show their school ID for entry. The safety and well-being of students, staff, and community members are of the utmost importance to the district, Cargile said.

Metal detectors are now mandatory for all MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA events, but the prospect of hardening school events with intensified security remains a polarizing issue. Most districts don’t use metal detectors.

Locally, school districts in Kansas City, Missouri; Kansas City, Kansas; and Grandview are among the few that employ security strategies similar to Hickman Mills’. All use metal detectors or wands at athletic events.

The Center School District has Kansas City police officers present at their games. Schools in the Shawnee Mission, Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit districts don’t use any sort of metal detectors in schools or at events.

But no district is immune from the threat of violence. And recent incidents suggest that more districts should take a hard look at their security policies.

On Thursday, two 13-year-old students at Hocker Grove Middle School in Shawnee were arrested for bringing guns to school. In August, a former Blue Springs High School student was arrested after he was found on campus with a gun on the first day of classes.

The unfortunate reality is that security screenings have become a necessity — not an overreaction — in many public buildings and arenas. The Hickman Mills school district wisely did not wait for a tragedy to occur before taking action.

In Missouri, incidents of gunfire erupting at high school athletic events should put school officials everywhere on notice. In St. Louis, an 8-year-old child was shot and killed after a football jamboree last month. Reports of gunfire at another St. Louis-area school sent spectators scrambling for cover.

Hickman Mills doesn’t want to be the next district added to this growing list.

“We want to create and maintain a safe and supportive climate,” Cargile said.

Districts in Florida, South Carolina and Alabama responded to campus shootings by implementing enhanced security measures for athletic events. Schools in Virginia and Indiana also strengthened security after similar incidents.

Metal detectors are not for all districts, said Kenneth Trump, president of Cleveland-based National School Safety and Security Services. Deploying a combination of technology, policies, procedures and personnel has been an effective strategy for some districts.

But while Hickman Mills is the latest school district in our area to add metal detectors, it won’t be the last — nor should it be.

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