Metal or Mental Detectors?

If you haven’t seen Coral Gables Senior High School, let me describe it to you. 

It’s the kind of architecture I’d describe as Tropical Mediterranean.  Aside from obvious Spanish influences, the school that first opened for the class of 1954 has lots of windows, breezy walkways and sunny courtyards, nothing like the prison-chic architecture of later school years, the monolithic concrete windowless boxes that so many South Florida schools are.

The architecture of CGHS is important to note before you answer this question:

Should schools have metal detectors?

That question was among the first to be knee-jerked back into the spotlight even before the body of 10th grader Juan Carlos Rivera was removed from the sunny Gables High courtyard where another student had stabbed him, ended his life, during a fight between classes Tuesday.

“Where was the security, the metal detectors?” parents asked, reporters asked, students asked.

“We do not believe in turning the schools into prisons,” said Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade’s School Superintendent.

As far as I can tell, South Florida schools are without metal detectors for several reasons.  The first is likely money.  The machines and the people to run them cost far more to install and operate than cash-strapped school systems care to spend.

But I sense they would spend it, if there were valid data to suggest that a metal detector deters violence in school.  But there is not.

Sure, it could pick up a metal weapon on a body that passed through it.   But it could not pick up something more telling and more dangerous. 

Metal detectors can’t detect state of mind, can’t detect disregard for human life, and can’t detect a psyche sensitized to violence and its permanent affects.

People who bring all that with them to school can get around a metal detector fairly easily.  So many school campuses are wide open to tropical breezes and surrounded by acres of chain link fence. 

The point is, the real issue with school security shouldn’t be keeping weapons outside the school perimeter, it should be keeping the kids who are inside morally equipped enough, clever enough, confident enough to deal with the kind of conflicts and issues that have been around since long before Coral Gables High School was built.  You know, long before a generation grew up watching violence become a game on a screen, long before thug culture got cool.  

The superintendent had this to say:  “We need to ask parents in the community, ‘What are we teaching our kids?  What is their level of personal and civic adequacy?  How do they respond to criticism from others or stressful situations?’”  

Those are much better questions than, “Where are the metal detectors?”.


8 Responses

  1. From going to that school and witnessing all things that have happened.. and specially to what happened today. Yes, we need metal detectors. They have the IDs, they have the security and the uniforms.. so why not just top it all off with the metal detectors? All that needs to come to school is the books, and the pens.

  2. Btw, they had money to build the patio cemented area where the kid passed away. They had money to build the front patio that now has a GIGANTIC WALL saying “CAVERLIERS” with the school logo on it.. (which was not there for my time) but.. no money for metal detectors… just watch the vid and you’ll know what I mean.

  3. Good afternoon.,
    i agree what are parents teach their kids?, were are the kids getting this weapons?,
    But this are only few kids,that are killing the goods one, what happens to the kids that parents teach them moral, that keeps communication open at all times, parents that teach kids how to be a good citizen a good person, good at heart, good students. What kind of security my child has at school today? i don’t agree with Metal detectors.
    i heard a school official yesterday,stating that schools is only for instructing children, good, once a child is left in school to get instructed, who is suppervising? who is taking care of them? Who is concern for their safety? Who is keeping them safe?
    The easiest way out is to point fingers, point fingers at parents what are they learning at home, are their parent divorce? i think the fault is parents, teachers, society, goverment. Some Parents, don’t read their children’s way of thinking, or why are they behaving the way they are, or who are they friends,the majority of schools employee are sick and tire, of not getting paid enough, not getting enough money for supplies, worrying if they are going to have a job or enough money, dealing wiith other issue not related directly with instructing children. Goverment to busy stilling money, taking money from here giving it to somebody else, fraud, abuse of powe etch. Kids learn from actions, from you, public figure, teacher, friends, me, etc. not only TV and video games. We should all put our head together and figure out a way, of making children enviroment safer. Because todays kids are our goverment, teachers, parents, cops, doctors of tomorrow, are we going to have more criminals than cops? We together better shape up, or is only going to get worse.

  4. Although the incident at Coral Gables was a horrendous act, we must learn from it. Metal detectors don’t necessarily work, that is a proven fact. But what is factual is that educating students by providing them with crime prevention tools does work. Case in point – last week 2 guns were recovered because students did the right thing of reporting. Our Youth Crime Watch of Miami-Dade that is not currently being funded by the School Board and has been in the schools for the last 30 years, is a program that teaches students that its “OK” to report incidents that might happen. YCW through its YCW Clubs in the schools has been in the forefront of educating our students in Anti-Bullying, Drugs, and Anti Violence programs. We also promote the School Police hotline “305-995-COPS” where kids can leave information without giving their name. We offer them tools so that they can help make their school a safe one. This death probably could or couldn’t have been prevented, we won’t know until after the full investigation…did any of the students know that these two kids were already having problems?did anyone hear any threats? did anyone tell an adult? These are questions yet to be answered but viable to the incident.
    Two families have lost their children to a senseless act of violence, but we must learn from this horrific situation.
    I certainly hope that the Miami-Dade School board funds programs such as ours, because prevention is the key to stopping the violence.

  5. Your spot on. School staff does not have resources to phycologically profile every student, all day, all year. Metal detecors are minimally effective at best. Would not have stopped little phyco Johnny. The parents and the community they live in (neighbors) should be responsible. But, mostly I feel its a total failure on the part of the parents to educate, enstill wisdom etc… To be fair – I know great parents who have demon seeds for kids. So tough call, but it should start with the parents. Give authority back to teachers and staff to discipline and if ness. remove/ban the child from public school.
    Its time we stop setting up rules to control the phyco’s, whichs forces the normal kids to function on that low level. Places normal kids in chains. Shrinks would work better than metal detectors !! Undue the damage parents and neighbors have caused. Then the norm kids will be safe without runnig a school as if it were a prison. The shrink thing should be applied to the drivers liscense test as well !!

  6. Just read your piece on metal detectors. Fine, except there is one more-perhaps even more practical-point to be raised here.
    Any metal detector worth anything (and MANY are not!) would pick up every metal compass (complete with sharp points!), steel rule and everything else that could pass an “edged weapon” profile. The students would never get into school in the morning unless they began lining up at 4 AM.
    Just a thought…

  7. Your blog is to the point. Parental involvement is critical, and the school’s counselors or psychologists might have picked up on issues earlier. Unfortunately, many of those positions have been eliminated in recent years.

    Too late, we learned that police went to the murderer’s home 11 times in the last year. Could anyone have sounded an alarm earlier?

    Are school police working to protect our children? There were cutbacks there too.

    At Krop, children are regularly ‘relieved’ of their cell phones, iPods and anything else of value that they take to school. Is my child safe at school? I hope so. I pray so.

  8. I am absolutely DUMBFOUNDED by the answer given by the Superintendent when asked about metal detectors. He does not believe in turning the schools into a prison? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! CHILDREN ARE DYING IN THESE SCHOOLS BECAUSE THEY ARE PACKING WEAPONS IN THEIR BK BAGS LIKE SCHOOL SUPPLIES! It’s a bit too late to worry about the appearance of the schools. A student at Coral Gables High just recently lost his life while another is behind bars awaiting trial.Meanwhile, two families are at a loss. Im not blaming Mr.Carvalho for anyone’s death,but he would have been better off blaming the economic crisis on being unable to install detectors.We have all the money in the world when it comes to building a stadium for the Marlins; motion sensored toilets in hospitals and this new “bullet train” coming soon in Orlando. Where does the safety of our children fit in the equation….Or are the metal detectors not “the fall look”???

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