HENRICO COUNTY, Va. October 31 2023— It’s Henrico County’s latest step toward improving safety across its school district.
Four middle schools now boast new weapon detection systems, which scan visitors as they come through the door.
The district’s official roll-out of the systems began in its high schools at the beginning of the school year.
“It’s gone extremely well,” said Lenny Pritchard, Chief of Operations for the district.
So far this school year, the systems have only caught two items that are not supposed to come to school: a taser and mace.
“We hope that it has acted as a deterrent for bringing weapons to school,” Pritchard said.
Implementing the weapons detection systems did not come without hiccups at the beginning of the year, like long lines, causing reports of some students being late to class while waiting to be scanned.
Timing the process, Pritchard said, has improved immensely.
“We know that there are certain things that are going to trigger it to go off — particularly like our laptops, and large three-ring binders,” Pritchard explained. “If those students have those out, the whole process lasts from the time the student hands it to the person or puts it on the table and rolls it down, walks through it picks it up is about two seconds per kid.”
School staff work with students who may have special needs or require special devices that also have to pass through the systems. Parents are notified before the systems are considered active in their child’s school.
All students, no matter their arrival time, must pass through the system before going to class.
Pritchard said the school is not sharing which middle schools are now using the weapon detection systems, but says the district anticipates putting this kind of technology in all secondary schools, and eventually, elementary schools.
That’s something Cameron James, a parent of two young children, supports.
“I think about that all the time,” James said.
When his son gets to elementary school in the next year, the Prince George County parent said he wants to see something similar in his son’s school.
“They need them,” James said. “They definitely do.”