Metal Detectors Approved for Cleveland Schools

All of Cleveland's 50,000 public-school students could face metal detectors and airport-style X-ray machines as early as next Friday in the wake of the shootings at SuccessTech Academy.

The state Friday authorized the district to spend $2.5 million of surplus capital-improvements money toward the $3.3 million purchase of security devices. Metal detectors will be installed in all 111 buildings, plus all 16 high schools will also have X-ray screening machines.

The Ohio School Facilities Commission contributes $2 of every $3 spent on the $1 billion Cleveland schools construction program. The money for security devices will come from the $200 million so-called "warm, safe and dry" fix-up for repairs like roofs and windows, heating and cooling, and fire hazards.

The announcement was made by Gov. Ted Strickland, who had been asked by school officials to fast-track their request.

The school district will put $800,000 toward the security system. The local contribution comes from a $335 million bond issue voters approved in 2001.

"I need to do whatever we can to ensure the safety of students, staff and visitors," said Dan Burns, the schools' chief operating officer, whose responsibilities include security.

He said Friday that he will also ask the school board to spend $3.7 million to hire 50 more full-time armed security guards to patrol schools and up to 150 part-time guards to operate the screening equipment.

Burns said the district would buy one metal detector for every 500 students in a school. This means, for example, a typical elementary school will have one while a school such as John Marshall High School with nearly 2,000 students will have four.

Schools Chief Executive Eugene Sanders has been criticized by SuccessTech parents, who said they tried for three years to get the district to install a metal detector at the school and hire a second security guard.

School officials said there was only one guard on duty Oct. 10 when 14-year-old freshman Asa Coon - who had been suspended - slipped into the building carrying a duffel bag with two handguns, ammunition and knives. Apparently targeting teachers, he shot and wounded two of them and two students before using a gun to kill himself, police said.

The district has not yet explained how Coon managed to get in the building, despite 27 security cameras.

Burns said he could not say how the $2.5 million in state money would affect the school building program, which is already scheduled to run out of cash in five years unless voters approve a second bond issue of $217 million.

Members of the Cleveland City Council debated the issue Friday as they huddled with the Sanders administration and the Cleveland Teachers Union.

Councilman Roosevelt Coats said he opposes metal detectors and armed guards in schools, except for Cleveland police who work in several high schools.

"It sends the wrong message," Coats said. "It says to our students that 'you are so bad and your behavior is so different that you have to have armed guards.' "

Councilman Michael Polensek disagreed with Coats, saying the metal detectors will demonstrate that the district is finally getting tough on crime in the schools.

"I'm tired of seeing people move out of our neighborhoods because they don't feel their children are safe," Polensek said.

Columbus Bureau Chief Mark Rollenhagen contributed to this story.


Loading