Torey Alston, a member of the Broward County School Board pictured during his tenure as a Broward County commissioner, supports the added security. PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIPEDIA

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.- In an effort to crack down on students bringing guns or other weapons to school, the Broward County School Board has approved a plan to place metal detectors in 37 schools across the county.

During a workshop last week, school board members gave the green light for a summer pilot program at two schools, J.P. Taravella High and Charles W. Flanagan High schools.

By the 2024-2025 school year, metal detectors will be installed at 31 high schools and six K-8 Centers.

The plan alleviates parents’ and students’ concerns following several incidents in which kids brought guns and knives to school, placing parents, school officials and security personnel on high alert.

In February, a student at Dillard High School rushed himself to the hospital after being shot on campus and police arrested a 15-year-old for bringing the gun to school.

In January, three students at Deerfield Beach High School and Stranahan High School were arrested for bringing loaded guns and illicit substances to school.

Some parents were so afraid for their kids’ safety that they kept them home for several days following the incidents; others placed their kids in private schools or chose homeschooling.

The issue and a teacher shortage have led to declining student enrollment at Broward County public schools, and school officials are deciding whether to close several schools and consolidate educational institutions.

The school district, which is the sixth largest in the nation, has been under pressure to improve safety and security measures at schools since the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting massacre that took the lives of 17 people and injured another 17.

In 2022, the Florida Legislature approved a record $210 million for school safety for the state’s school districts including hardening grants, and $140 million for mental health awareness.

The overall cost of the safety and security upgrade for Broward County Schools is estimated to be over $1.8 million which would equip the entrances at the designated high schools and centers with metal detectors.

“It’s not the end all, be all, answer all, it really isn’t, but it does keep that child who’s bringing in a weapon from home or from the neighborhood,” said Broward County Schools Superintendent Dr. Peter Licata. “Remember, we don’t have them on campus; they come in from outside. It does give them twice the thought of, ‘Wait a second, I don’t want to go to jail or ruin my life by bringing a weapon on campus.’” Broward County School Board member Torey Alston, the only Black on the board, told the South Florida Times he supports metal detectors because they beef up security to shield the safety of students, teachers and facility staff.

"The vote by the board to implement metal detectors, including with a pilot in two schools, one in my district, is a positive step," he said "Ensuring safety of all our students and employees sends a strong message of adding an additional layer of safety and security in our schools."

Fam didn’t embrace the idea.

“I can’t condone a test pilot of something that I haven’t seen the car driven,” said Fam during the workshop. “I don’t know anything about it, that you’re telling me to go by what the salesperson says.”

Broward Schools safety director James La Rosa said the school district introduced random checks of students’ bookbags to prevent gun-related incidents.

But officials say metal detectors are the best solution to deter students from bringing weapons to school.

A previous proposed solution for students to bring clear backpacks to school was shot down by the school board last year due to students’ protest about their privacy.

The Broward County district joins Palm Beach and Miami-Dade public schools in using metal detectors to prevent guns on campuses.

Last month, Palm Beach County public schools started installing metal detectors at eight high schools including Boynton Beach Community High School, Park Vista Community High School, Forest Hill Community High School, and Palm Beach Central High School.

Public schools in Miami Dade County use a mobile detection unit that searches for metal objects and weapons in schools.

All schools in the county are subjected to random inspections.