Education

Student took loaded gun into Lexington high school. Metal detector wand did not catch it.

Metal detectors installed at Frederick Douglass High School

Students of Frederick Douglass High School will now pass through fixed metal detectors each morning. The process was demonstrated on Monday.
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Students of Frederick Douglass High School will now pass through fixed metal detectors each morning. The process was demonstrated on Monday.

A student on Wednesday brought a loaded gun into Lexington’s Frederick Douglass High School after he was checked with a hand-held metal detector, officials said.

Last May, Douglass was the first high school in the district to install stationary walk-through metal detectors.

“This afternoon, we determined that one of our students had a gun with him at school,” Lexington principal Lester Diaz said in a letter to families.

“The student did not enter the building through the walk-through metal detectors this morning. He checked in after the day had started and came through the front entrance, where he was wanded using a hand-held metal detector, and his backpack was checked.”

Walk-through metal detectors are not used in the front secure vestibule where the student entered. The gun was concealed in the backpack. Backpacks are not wanded or sent through metal detectors because they have metal on them, including zippers, Diaz said at a news conference.

When he entered the building, the student did not have his identification badge and adhering to school protocol, was sent to an in school suspension or “SAFE” room until he could obtain a badge, Diaz said. He then went about his school day until sometime in the afternoon, when he had an unrelated disciplinary issue in the hallway. At that time, members of the school administrative team searched the student’s backpack and found the gun.

School officials are working with security personnel who are under contract to conduct searches to revisit search procedures, Diaz said in the letter. Protocols on searching backpacks will be tightened up, district officials said at the news conference.

The student did not say that he wanted to use the gun and officials have no reason to believe that he planned to use it, Randy Peffer, the district’s chief of high schools, said at the news conference.

The student, described only as a lower classman, has been charged with possession of a weapon on school property and possession of a stolen handgun. The student will face administrative consequences through the school district, Diaz said, and may also face legal consequences through the juvenile court system.

“The entire situation was extremely unfortunate and cause for concern,” said Diaz. “We understand that metal detectors and the safety protocols we put in place are not 100 percent fail safe sure and secure. Situations will happen.”

But district officials said the schools’ administrative team did a good job of handling the situation, that safety protocols worked because the weapon was found, and they pointed out that no one was hurt. District officials did not provide details about the gun.

Last spring, before the school installed walk-through metal detectors, a student inadvertently shot himself in the hand with a gun that he had brought into Douglass undetected. In July, the Fayette County Public Schools board approved a property tax increase that will fund a $13.5 million safety initiative designed to make schools safer with everything from more secure buildings to more counselors to additional metal detectors.

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