Marion Schools latest district to deploy weapon detectors

Jan. 24—Technology got on the board first at a high school basketball game Monday night in Marion County.

People filing in for the boys' home contest pitting the Huskies of North Marion against the Eagles of Robert C. Byrd had go through a metal detector first, before taking their bleacher seats.

Earlier that day, students reporting to class at the school in the outlying reaches of the county were scanned by that same detector.

The Marion County Commission purchased three such devices, which were loaned out to the county's three high schools.

Donna Heston, the district's superintendent, said North Marion High volunteered to be the inaugural test subject.

"Kudos to the administration, " she said.

Heston said the morning with the students and the evening with the spectators went relatively well, considering it was the first day with the new technology.

There were reports of long wait times at the school, as students queued up outside in cold temperatures.

"We had glitches, but we're working on them, " the superintendent said. "This is all about the safety and well-being of our kids."

After the trial run at North Marion, the other devices will be placed at Fairmont Senior and East Fairmont Senior High, she said.

Monongalia County, meanwhile, has been using similar security systems at its three high schools since the fall term.

Heston toured the schools earlier to view the technology and all its check-in particulars as students report to class.

Mon has yet to deploy the devices at any sporting contest, although it plans to, officials said.

The devices the county purchased last January are lower-tier versions of the same model used by Major League Baseball, Disney, and concert promotors. They are designed to quickly move large groups of people while efficiently scanning for security.

"We're still talking about it and planning it, " said Adam Henkins, who directs the district's divisions of Safe and Support Schools and Athletics.

"We always have a police presence at our games anyway, " he said.

Marion County school board member James Saunders allowed that the term, "police presence, " used in conjunction with Marion County Schools, still sounds a little foreign to his ears — even if he is going into to his 36th year on the board.

Like Heston, he appreciates that it was students from across the county that requested metal detectors for the district.

It was an urgency, he said, stepped up after the mass shooting last May at an elementary school in Texas that saw the deaths of 19 students, two teachers and the lone gunman.

He thinks about the angst and stress of students and teachers alike in the classroom in a new climate of gun violence.

Such violence has led to a particularly bloody start of 2023.

According to Associated Press and other sources, 39 people have been killed in shootings since Jan. 4 — including the 11 most recent victims gunned down at a Lunar New Year celebration in California over the weekend.

"Back when I was in school, teachers had to worry about spitballs on the ceiling, " Saunders said.

"And now, all this. Who would have thought ?"

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