H.4386 & H.4810 – Metal detectors in public schools

Two bills filed by the House would change security policy in South Carolina’s schools. H.4386 would require that metal detectors be installed at the public entrances of every public school in the state. “Public entrances” are defined as the main entrance to each school building, gymnasium, and football stadium. Secondary doors and service entrances would not require metal detectors.

H.4810 would establish the School Metal Detector Study Committee. The committee would be tasked with considering the benefits of installing metal detectors at each K-12 school, and must weigh factors such as cost, funding sources, and the feasibility of installation.

While student safety remains a top priority, the fact is that well-intentioned legislation does not equate to good policy. A top-down, “one size fits all” mandate from Columbia is not how security should be approached. Not every school necessarily needs metal detectors and local districts should have the flexibility to develop individual security approaches that will keep their own schools safe.

Furthermore, it is unclear why these two proposals are being introduced concurrently. If the intent is to study mandatory metal detectors as a possible way to address school security, a solution shouldn’t be developed or even considered until the committee has had time to understand the issues and seek input from industry experts.

Finally, implementing a policy of this magnitude would require a huge investment from taxpayers. An estimate from the state Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office puts the cost of installing metal detectors in every school around $14.4 million, and that doesn’t include the millions in added costs of staffing security checkpoints each year.

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