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Lee County School District begins to install weapon detectors in schools

Weapons detection system
Posted at 1:54 PM, Aug 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-03 20:11:33-04

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — The Lee County School District has started to roll out its new weapons detection systems inside a few schools. This comes four months after the school board voted to place them in all schools.

The system is much like a metal detector, but this will search for weapons rather than simply metal. The decision to implement these comes on the heels of several school shootings over the past few years include Parkland and Uvalde.

 "I would rather be proactive than reactive," said Dave Newlan, the district's safety and security director. "We’re always looking to increase our security and layers of security in our schools."

The director says every student and staff member will walk through when they enter the building. The detector is called OpenGate, made by Ceia.

"It’ll let a lot of metal through, which is why we call it a weapons detector," said Tom McDermott, the company's tech evangelist.

It'll check for strictly weapons based on the detector's settings, such as a gun or a knife.

"If I have a reported threat, I can change it into a metal detector, screen 30 kids through if I have a reported threat in a classroom, I’ll find that small piece of metal," McDermott said. "100% accurate based on what you set it to."

The difference with this detector is everyone can walk through with whatever they have in their pockets, though things like an umbrella or Chromebook will set it off.

Students will hand off their laptops before going through since it will automatically trip the system as if they have something they shouldn't.

If the system goes off, Newlan says the student will give their backpack to an administrator monitoring students walking through. The student will go through the detector again to determine if it's going off because they have something on them or a piece of metal in their bag.

"It could be something else that could’ve set it off that has the metallic end or shape that may detect it," Newlan said.

No matter where people are entering the building, they have to go through the detector, though the number of detectors will depend on the individual school.

"Every school will vary on how many OpenGate systems based on the design, based on entry points," Newlan said.

For all the detectors, the district is spending $2 million, which comes from taxpayers and the Legislature.

The school district says this is another layer of security, in hopes of preventing any threats from happening.
"But this is reality and we can’t be naive to reality," Newlan said.

By the end of August, the director expects 16 schools to have the detectors with the rest going in likely by the end of the 2024-2025 school year.