I observed 4 CMS weapons searches. Here’s what I learned

CMS talks about random gun searches after a CMS student was shot

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent Clayton Wilcox says the school system will be conducting random searches.
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Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent Clayton Wilcox says the school system will be conducting random searches.

As a member of the CMS Interfaith Advisory Council, a diverse group of community faith leaders, I observed four recent security searches conducted at CMS high schools.

Here’s what I observed:

There are different methods of doing security searches. The most expedient and economical method was to randomly search several classrooms at a number of randomly chosen schools.

The names of the schools being searched were not released to the schools until just before the searches. The morning of the search, room numbers were randomly drawn for the four rooms that would be searched. Parents were sent a message when the search started and when it ended.

I accompanied the principal, members of CMS staff, the resource officer assigned to that school, and about four male and four female security officers from other schools (who’d come from their own schools to participate) as they made their way to the classrooms.

The principal entered alone and explained what was going to happen. Then the security folks entered.

The girls lined up on one side of the room with female security officers, the boys on the other with male security officers. Their bags were searched, then the students were wanded.

Depending on the class size the searches took from 7–13 minutes.

The students from all the schools behaved well and were respectful. But they were resolved to the whole process in a way they shouldn’t have to be.

To have your personal items searched and to stand with your hands outstretched while being wanded is a vulnerable position to be in. (To be clear, none of the security folks touched any students or their belongings.)

The only contraband found, while I was present, were things like Tylenol, which students are not supposed to have unless they have a doctor’s note. And one young lady, who seemed to forget she had it, had pepper spray. She said, “I need it because I walk home.”

And that right there is the problem. We live in a society where people don’t feel safe walking in their neighborhoods. That is what needs to be addressed. No one with a passion for education wants to spend time or resources on looking for guns in schools. When the proposed security measures are put in place, CMS will spend $10 million on security — funds that should instead be used to better educate our children. While we all want our students to be safe, but this is not a school issue. It is a societal issue that must be addressed.

Schools should not have to bear the burden of gun violence that has plagued this country. Keep in mind, these security searches, like those at airports, are more about deterring weapons entering the area than finding them. The weapons that have been found in CMS schools recently were found because students reported it to CMS staff, with whom they’d developed a good relationship. That reflects what I saw in all the schools I went to. The principals, teachers and security folks seemed to have good relationships with the students.

Schools will not be safe from gun violence until our society is safe from it. As a society we need to enact and enforce laws that prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands.

Hamid can be reached at and