Lancaster County schools to use metal detectors on campus amid rise in shootings

The Lancaster County School District is expanding its use of metal detectors on campuses.
The Lancaster County School District is expanding its use of metal detectors on campuses. Contributed photo

Some Lancaster County students will soon need to walk through metal detectors, much like those used in airports, to get to class.

With a rising numbers of shootings involving school-age children in the Lancaster community, the school district is expanding its use of metal detectors on campuses, said Bryan Vaughn, director of safety and transportation for the Lancaster County School District.

Last spring, the district started looking at using walk-through metal detectors on high school campus and other areas, Vaughn said.

“There was a spike in the number of gun-related fatalities involving young people (in the community),” he said.

Vaughn said district officials understand that schools are a part of the community, and that whatever happens in the Lancaster area may filter into campuses.

A Lancaster student was charged Tuesday with bringing a loaded gun to Andrew Jackson High School.

School officials found the pistol, a .380-caliber semiautomatic with a loaded magazine, and less than an ounce of marijuana in another student’s bookbag, police said.

The gun was found the same day another Lancaster County school, Indian Land High School, called in extra law enforcement after a shooting threat was found in a school bathroom. No problems were reported, police said.

Lancaster County schools have not had high numbers of weapons found on campus, Vaugh said. He said in the last 10 years, about five guns were confiscated from students.

The district’s detector policy is not a response to any one specific incident, Vaughn said.

“It’s not a reaction to any one thing we’ve seen trend wise in our schools, but a reaction to what we’re seeing community wide,” he said.

The Lancaster school district has had a metal detector policy for more than 20 years, and has used handheld devices for specific cases, Vaughn said.

The district will now expand its metal detector use to walk-through detectors that can scan multiple people quickly, he said. The plan is to use a random system, in which the detectors are used at different times and locations throughout the district with no set schedule.

“When you have a set routine, people are able to find ways around it,” Vaughn said. “The idea is to make those people that might be prone to bring weapons to school, to make it a very uncomfortable situation to them and make them less likely to bring a weapon into school.”

Vaughn said the district will use also use a K9 dog unit that can detect gun powder residue on cars and other areas not served by metal detectors.

Parents and community members have expressed support for the detectors, which will go into place within the next few school days, Vaughn said.

“We feel strongly our community will embrace it,” he said. “At the end of the day, the safety of kids is paramount over anything else.”

Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082