Starting next week, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School will be using walk through metal detectors. It is the second Lexington school to get them.
Fayette County Public Schools Chief Operations Officer Myron Thompson shared the news Monday with school board members in an update on the district’s 10-point safety investment plan.
Principal Betsy Rains said that on Monday the metal detectors were set up, but not turned on, in the gym foyer and the front foyer for students to walk through “as a gradual transition to full implementation during the week of October 29.”
“Students will have this week to adjust their travel time, walk through, and prepare their backpacks to be checked, “ said Rains. “Beginning the week of October 29, metal detectors will be fully implemented and we will begin the process of checking student ID’s and backpacks. These are exciting changes that will help raise the safety and security of our campus. “
At each of several metal detectors, Dunbar’s online student newspaper the PLD Lamplighter reported, students will place their backpacks on a table to be searched prior to walking through.
“It’s just like if you’re going to King’s Island, or if you’re going to a concert, or a collegiate sporting event, or Keeneland, or any place where there are large amounts of people, this is the new normal,” the Lamplighter quoted Rains as saying.
On July 18 , board members voted to add a 5-cent property tax for every $100 of property value. That increase will fund a $13.5 million initiative to make schools safer with everything from standalone metal detectors to more secure building entrances and more mental health professionals.
Mass school shootings in Florida and Kentucky earlier this year, and several threats of school violence in Fayette County, prompted the initiative from Fayette Superintendent Manny Caulk.
District officials have said that by April 2019, every Fayette County Public high school is expected to have walk-through metal detectors and by next school year, so will every public middle school in Lexington. The total cost for the metal detectors will be $2.26 million.
Dunbar, at 1600 Man O’ War Boulevard, had a safety scare in March that Caulk has referred to several times in explaining the need for safer Fayette schools. An anonymous tip to a school safety tipline took police to the door of 18-year-old Timothy Felker, who had been a student prior to the investigation.
The tip also said Felker “owns a gun and constantly talks about killing himself/ shooting up the school. He tells specific people he would shoot them first and then shoot up the classroom,” according to court documents.
He was charged with a felony. Police took a rifle and about 500 rounds of ammunition from his home, according to court documents. Felker was indicted on a charge of second-degree terroristic threatening, which is punishable by between one and five years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty and is subject to electronic monitoring. Among the conditions of his release is that he cannot be on the Dunbar school property and must keep appointments with professionals. His next court hearing in Fayette Circuit Court is scheduled for November 30.
Frederick Douglass, Lexington’s newest main high school on Winchester Road, became the first Lexington high school to start using the walk through metal detectors in May. A student shot himself in the hand last spring after taking a gun into a classroom there.
As part of the new safety measures, district officials say they are also updating technology and building safety, creating more secure vestibules, and hiring more police officers, mental health professionals, nurses and social workers. Next month the district will also start distributing a new student safety and security guide for parents that addresses ways to help children avoid potential danger and be prepared for an unsafe situation.
“Our plan is rolling out,” Caulk told school board members Monday.