School safety is top of mind for districts across the United States, which is why school districts set specific protocol when it comes to keeping students secure.
Metal detectors became a topic of discussion to monitor what comes through school doors, but as 2 Works for You found out, most districts in Green Country feel those could do more harm than good.
What does it say about a school if students, faculty and staff are forced to walk through a metal detector or be wanded before entering a school campus each day?
Area schools said they don't use metal detectors and doing so could set a tone of mistrust.
To set the scene, imagine hallways full of the sights and sounds of a new school day. Classrooms are full of teachers eager to teach and students eager to learn.
"The whiteboard has the problem that you're working on,” a teacher can be heard saying to students.
To ensure each day goes smoothly, it all starts the moment students step foot on campus.
"We have called out student culture as one of our outcomes that we focus on so that students feel engaged and they feel a sense of belonging,” Dr. Ebony Johnson, Executive Director of Student and Family Support Services at Tulsa Public Schools, said.
For administrators, creating an environment where children feel safe is essential.
"We believe that when they have those two things, that fosters safety,” Dr. Johnson said.
Because of this mentality, Green Country school districts have decided to forgo the measures of checking each student by way of metal detector, and instead build relationships.
"We don't want it to feel like a prison when they come here,” Randy Harris, Superintendent at Wagoner Public Schools, said. “We want it to feel like a safe educational environment where they feel welcome and accepted."
Wagoner Public Schools is finding other ways to take security to the next level, even investing nearly $70,000 in safety measures over the summer.
A new vestibule added to the front of the school creates a system where visitors must be buzzed in twice before even entering the building.
However, a metal detector for students, is not necessary according to Harris.
"If you've come to that point, you've gone too far,” Harris said. “We need to be a little more proactive with the relationship with our kiddos."
Harris said the presence of a metal detector could send the message of “You're not trusted,” and could create an adverse effect.
If you're doing this because you don't trust us, by God there's no reason to trust us and so you do have to trust our kids,” Harris said.
Although a small district, WPS is on the same page as the large districts, such as TPS, which believes trust establishes a system of honesty, making metal detectors obsolete.
"We've had other kids come and tell us, ‘Oh so and so has this, you might want to look in the backpack,’” Mike Crase, Principal at East Central High School said.
It is believed students report what they see to be threats because of the positive environment faculty and staff strive to create.
“The charge of a principal is to continue to gather the best adults that can be around these students to help guide them,” Crase said.
Students come from different walks of life and see each day through different perspectives, and school leaders said they realize that. That's why they've created niches for all students
"They actually lead culture and climate inside of their schools, where they are actually creating safe havens for young people,” Dr. Johnson said. “Where young people feel excited about being there."
Administrators also said these interactions have greatly reduced the number of incidents at school, and have even increased grade points, attendance, and graduation rates.
Security at schools is an ever changing process, but districts believe utilizing intense security protocols like metal detectors can send the wrong message.
Some schools do still utilize metal detecting wands on certain occasions. At Wagoner for instance, if a student were to make a threat against the school, a wand could be used that day on all students entering the building.
Officials said it isn't common, but they will do so when needed.
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