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Parent says Perry Township weapons detectors are overdue

PERRY TOWNSHIP, Ind. (WISH) — A father of a high school student on Monday said he hopes new weapons detectors at two high schools deter students from bringing guns into the buildings.

John Haub said his daughter alerted officials after another student showed her a weapon at Perry Meridian High School this spring. He said he had talked to her earlier in her school career about remaining calm and telling authorities if she ever saw one.

“Just to make light of the situation to where they wouldn’t run or get spooked and try to do something with it,” he said. “I’m proud that she reacted the way she did. Luckily, the school did what they were supposed to.”

Haub said he hoped a move by the Perry Township School Board would reduce the chances another student will have to do the same thing. At a special meeting early Monday morning, the board voted unanimously to approve a $1.5 million contract for a set of advanced weapons detectors. The detectors will be installed at all student entrances at the school corporation’s two high schools, Perry Meridian and Southport. Associate Superintendent Chris Sampson said officials made the decision in response to the general security environment rather than any one particular incident.

“It will help keep our campuses safe and secure,” he said. “I’m not pretending to know that this will change the conversation out in the neighborhoods in Marion County but it will on our school campuses.”

School officials said their records show 10 incidents this past school year in which students were caught with weapons at the two schools. At least two such incidents involved handguns and two more involved knives. In each case, school officials said they were able to resolve the situation and there was no indication the student was planning an attack.

Sampson said the system is sensitive enough to pick up individual parts of guns as well as complete firearms. If it detects a weapon, staff will pull the student aside for a more thorough search. He said students will not have to remove their backpacks or any clothing in order to go through. Sampson said the system should be able to distinguish between weapons and harmless objects and any false positives can be resolved with a secondary search. The scanners will be portable, so they can be used at outdoor events such as football games as well.

The money for the system will come from an existing school improvement bond. Haub said he would have been willing to pay higher taxes to cover the costs of the system had it come to that. Besides the direct effect of detecting weapons, Haub said the mere presence of the system might be enough to deter some students from bringing them in the first place.

“I know they’re going to try to find a way around this but at least it slows them down long enough to think about it,” he said. “Metal detectors should have been in about five or six years ago if you want to know the truth.”

Sampson said the system should be fully operational by mid-September. The contract is for four years but he said the equipment itself has a projected service life of more than 20 years thanks to frequent software updates. The school corporation will own the system outright.