Survey: About 33% of Salt Lake City students do not believe weapons detectors make school safer

May 8, 2024, 3:59 PM | Updated: May 9, 2024, 8:30 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — In 2024, the Salt Lake City School District became the first Utah school district to install weapons detectors on high school campuses. However, nearly a third of students think they aren’t working as attended.

On April 16, SLCSD members discussed the survey results that asked parents, students, and teachers at West High School, East High School and Highland High School about the usefulness of the weapons detectors.

Dr. Leeson Taylor, the SLCSD’s chief officer of school leadership and performance, told board members that parents feel that the weapon detectors make the schools after.

However, the students and teachers skew more negatively with the detector’s usefulness.

“Parents, we have a greater response that they have a perception that it does increase safety; student response is close to being even,” Taylor said in the meeting. “Teachers they lean toward ‘no.'”

Parents divided over weapon detectors in Salt Lake City high schools

Taylor said the survey found that roughly 1/3 of students believe the detectors do not make them feel safer at school. KSL spoke with West High students, who say the weapons detectors tend to make them late for class.

According to Taylor, 41% of teachers did not feel that the detectors made the school safer.

Taylor said that from February to March, there were 126,000 incidents of alerts going off from the weapons detectors. He said the vast majority were things like students’ laptops or glasses.

However, he did note that the detectors were working as some illegal items were found.

“Alcohol, confetti cannon, spray paint, pocket knives, a couple of lighters,” Taylor said. “We had two kids that ended up getting suspensions that was for marijuana vapes.”

The school board is reviewing all the survey data to decide whether to keep those weapons detectors in Salt Lake City high schools.

Weapons detectors survey results

On Thursday, KSL TV received the board’s report of the survey, which detailed the responses from parents, teachers, and students.

According to the survey, students understood why the weapon detectors were placed in their schools and believed the detectors could deter illegal items from being brought in.

However, many students feel negative about the weapon detectors and list more negative themes that the detectors bring compared to positive themes.

According to the survey, students feel the detectors do not work properly and are perceived to be useless.

“They go off on random items. I’ve been told my umbrella is flagged as a knife and my portable charger as a potential bomb, which makes me have to get my bag checked every time I go through them, which has made me late to classes,” one student wrote in the survey.

The students also said the weapon detectors could be easily avoided, with one student writing, “They only start at 8 (a.m) and stop around 4:30 (p.m). It is very easy for someone to sneak something in and hide it before the school day starts.”

Open Comments Weapons Detection Systems Survey by Michael Houck on Scribd

According to the survey, teachers share similar complaints and concerns about the weapon detectors, such as the detectors causing students to be late for class.

“My students use it as an excuse as to why they are late. Some days my students have said they get in line at 8:37 (a.m) and have not been able to be to class until 8:50 (a.m)” one teacher said. “It is reducing the amount of seat time a student can get and makes an easy excuse students use as to why they are late.”

The survey cites that teachers feel that students feel like they are in a “prison-like environment,” and students feel like they are constantly being “criminalized or targeted.”

“There needs to be a better rapport with students. The security needs to be more professional. They are often on their phones, knitting and cursing at the students,” a teacher wrote.

According to the survey, comments from parents were more positive, as they believe the weapon detectors deter violence at the school.

“My student says the detectors make him feel more safe, and therefore I feel more safe,” a parent said.

Still, many parents feel like the weapon detectors are a waste of resources and think the money could go toward counselors and mental health.

“I think more counselors, more eyes on the bathrooms, and better relationships between adults and students should be a major component of increasing student safety,” one parent wrote.

The main issue that all three groups wrote about is side doors being easily accessible, not locked, and unguarded.

“There are too many available outside doors that students still open for friends even though there are signs saying not to,” one teacher wrote. “There are work arounds, like the doors, that should be first addressed then the detectors will be effective.”

“I have witnessed students holding side doors open for their friends. Apparently, all doors need to be monitored, not just locked.” a parent said.

“Part of the problem is how many possible ways there are to enter the school, there are tens of doors that many people don’t even know about which all would be an easy way to just waltz in the school,” a student wrote.

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Survey: About 33% of Salt Lake City students do not believe weapons detectors make school safer