After gun incidents, random searches for weapons being considered for Lexington schools

There was a heavy law enforcement presence as parents arrived to collect their children after a student was injured from a self-inflicted gunshot Friday morning at Frederick Douglass High School.
There was a heavy law enforcement presence as parents arrived to collect their children after a student was injured from a self-inflicted gunshot Friday morning at Frederick Douglass High School.

On Monday, the Fayette County School board will be discussing a new policy for random searches by school administrators using metal detector wands, Paul Laurence Dunbar Principal Betsy Rains said in a letter to parents.

A proposed new metal detector policy follows Friday’s announcement that Frederick Douglass High School will be the first in the district to use fixed metal detectors and all students will be required to pass through them daily. At Douglass on Friday, a 16-year-old freshman accidentally shot himself in the hand with a pocket sized handgun in a classroom. The student had the gun in his pocket, principal Lester Diaz said in a letter to faculty.

No other students or staff were injured. The student was criminally charged and won’t be returning to the school.

No immediate decisions have been made about placing fixed metal detectors at other schools in the district. The agenda for Monday’s monthly school board planning meeting includes a proposed new metal detector policy for the district that would allow for that, however.

The proposed policy also discusses random searches, now not routinely used in the district. Rains told parents in her Friday message that, as soon as a board policy is in place, Dunbar will begin wand searches of students in randomly selected classrooms. Any person who is found in possession of a weapon on campus will be charged and recommended for expulsion, she said.

Under the proposal, all students entering a premises could be searched or students could be searched on a random basis, provided “a non-discriminatory, random selection process is used.”

An individual student could be searched when there is reasonable suspicion to believe the student is concealing a weapon.

School administrators would be trained to use the metal detectors.

Searches would be reasonable in scope and duration, could not be excessively intrusive and would have to be conducted in a uniform manner, the policy says.

The proposed policy also sets procedures for pat downs if the metal detector is activated.

Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk talked about new measures to keep students safe at Frederick Douglass High School where a student accidentally shot himself with a gun he brought to school Friday.

All middle and high schools now have multiple metal detector wands, and each school has established protocols for when they will be used.

At some schools all visitors and students who enter after the first bell are screened with the metal detector wands and at other schools, students who return to campus after leaving are screened.

The school district has had multiple threats and rumors in recent weeks and at least three incidents involving guns at different high school. The incidents followed this year’s fatal school shootings in Florida and Western Kentucky.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray previously said he would ask the Urban County Council to help pay for fixed metal detectors if they were needed and sheriff’s officials have offered manpower. In the past, school officials thought sending every high school student and staff through a fixed metal detector could take too much time and money. District spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said after Friday’s shooting that the costs for the Douglass metal detectors had not been calculated yet.

At a public meeting last week at Henry Clay High after the discovery that a student had a loaded gun on that campus, several parents called for increased metal detector checks.

Principal Paul Little discusses implementing random wanding of students as a security measure at the school. Video by Matt Goins

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

The Fayette County Public Schools Board has its regular monthly planning meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the district’s Central Office, 200 East Main Street