Installing metal detectors in Santa Fe schools won’t be easy. And it will be expensive. But the benefits far outweigh the costs and school district officials should be commended for approving the measure last week.

The detectors won’t stop all mass shootings. But they could go a long way in stopping students from entering schools with guns or other weapons.

Installing metal detectors is a concrete action with measurable benefit for a school district badly needing a sense of security after a student on May 18 shot and killed 10 people and wounded more than a dozen others at Santa Fe High School.

Other school districts have found weapons screening useful, according to an April 2018 Campus Safety report on the pros and cons of metal detectors.

In 2016-17, more than 2,120 weapons — firearms, stun guns and knives — were confiscated at New York City schools, with about half confiscated using metal detectors, according to the Campus Safety report.

Some students might find ways to get around a metal detector, but the mere presence of the devices is a deterrent.

The Campus Safety report went on to say the machines might be enough to prevent violence if an attacker thinks he’s likely to get caught as he enters the building.

What has slowed the installation of metal detectors at schools and colleges across the nation is the high cost.

Several companies have offered to donate labor and some devices to Santa Fe, but that would defray only a little of the substantial costs.

The estimated cost for the district to operate detectors at the high school was about $265,000 for electrical work, facility modifications and parts. Installing the detectors at the junior high school would also cost about $265,000.

It would cost about $615,000 for each of two elementary schools because those buildings would require extensive modification, district officials said.

Personnel to operate the detectors could cost from about $180,000 to about $420,000, not counting benefits, officials said.

This all adds up to a lot of money, but school districts have spent far more to build and operate football stadiums.

Many state and federal officials have vowed to help, and they should be pressed to follow through. Texas schools need more than words. They need money.

Although metal detectors are a start, most experts agree layered security is the only effective method. Santa Fe appears to be taking that approach by enforcing dress codes, adding security officers and providing mental health services. Enforcing existing codes is key. Police have said the Santa Fe shooter wore a trench coat. Trench coats can conceal weapons and should be red flags to educators and administrators.

Last month, the school board passed a $39 million budget that, along with the general business of educating children, includes money for five new police officers and five new security guards. The district also approved money for weapons, vehicles and other equipment for those new officers.

The district also is making many physical changes to its schools.

All of these measures are expensive. But Santa Fe and other districts can’t afford not to invest in safety. Doing nothing and hoping for the best isn’t an option. Students and staff, suffering psychological wounds most people will never know, deserve to feel secure when they return to school.

• Laura Elder

 Laura Elder: 409-683-5248; laura.elder@galvnews.com

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(6) comments

Rusty Schroeder

The main thing I like about metal detectors, it provides a main entry to the school. We don't need a fence around the campus, these kids aren't in jail, plus they make ladders. Security, video surveillance, and enforcing dress codes. The main things are eyes and ears from all involved in the daily routine of SFISD; students, faculty, parents, friends, etc. Tell someone if a person is troubled or seems distant to social activity. That's what counselors are there for, teachers are there for. I have been critical of SFISD in the handling of this situation, especially school board leadership. It is puzzling that 2 members still voted against this measure, that is an easy fix come election time. I don't back off 1 word I have said, there was a lax small town atmosphere of "this won't happen here" attitudes. Years ago I addressed this exact issue with Ms. Wall after a school board meeting where no security was on the outside the board room. Both officers were watching the board meeting while hundreds of students and parents were in the hall and common area waiting to go in. TJ was at that board meeting, we sat and talked on the bench in the hall while waiting for the award ceremony to end and the meeting to begin. I am a supporter of Ms. Wall, she might not think that right now, but I am and have been very pleased in the leadership she has directed over the district. But I do not like closed door meetings and keeping the public in the dark over decision making, that is why I was at that meeting that evening. I didn't like how they holed up and kept the citizens and media at bay while they circled the wagons with a defense team. They could have invited a person from local and state media to attend, it didn't have to be a circus in the national spotlight. There was no communication, that's what got us to where we are today to begin with. That young man was definitely troubled, but I bet he had seen the routine of the officers and staff well before May 18. He had it studied and knew how he could accomplish exactly what he in turn did, cause the biggest tragedy my town has ever seen and hopefully will ever see. I am a 1984 graduate, my mother taught at the High School for 30+ years, I am proud to be a Santa Fe Indian alumni. I still live in the community, many of my classmates do as well, everyone is still in disbelief that it happened. The start of a new school year will be difficult, but it will come with a better awareness and security to meet it. Sorry to be so long winded, I pray for strength for all that are about to take the next step in this life changing journey. rs

glenn COFFEy

why not do it for all schools, Santa FE in reality is no more deserving than ANY other school. laws of probability point to some other place for the next shooting

George Croix

A Garrett PD6500i walk thru metal detector sells for about $4,000 each.
A single detector, even a dozen at 40 grand, is thus a relatively small part of the costs mentioned for installation and operation.

George Croix

40 grand?

48 grand a dozen?

Naught times naught is naught.....

Dan Freeman

We need to propose tax increases to cover additional security.

Jose' Boix

Just start by enforcing the current rules and policies - perhaps with some needed edits. Dress code and IDs enforcement is sorely lacking. In addition, implement a more effective actual head-count including visitors to be available at all times. Just adding tools and equipment - and debating cost, with no overall and firm plan is counter productive and counter intuitive.

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