AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – During a regular meeting Monday evening, Akron’s school board will be asked to address security concerns in the district’s schools, adding new high-tech metal detectors, new security cameras and alarms on all side doors of the school buildings.
The requests from school administrators follow two separate incidents last week in which guns were discovered inside schools.
In the first incident, students alerted administrators at Litchfield CLC, a middle school, that a seventh grader had a gun in his book bag.
The district says within nine minutes the student was confronted and the gun was found.
The second incident happened on Friday when a 17-year-old student at the attached Firestone CLC, a high school, asked to go to his locker between the end of the school day and a 7:00 pm basketball game at the school.
District COO Stephen Thompson on Monday said the student was let into the school by another student through the side door, thus avoiding metal detectors.
The gun was in a coat which he put in his locker. He then went back through the metal detectors and later asked a school administrator if he could go to his locker to get a phone charger
Per the district’s policy, the school administrator escorted him to his locker and noticed that his coat appeared to have something very heavy in one of the pockets.
A loaded .45 caliber handgun was recovered, and the student was turned over to Akron police to face serious charges as a juvenile.
“Clearly we need to improve our procedures and protocols. We would be remiss to say that’s not true,” said Thompson.
“Our current cameras do not work very well, they are spotty, many of our cameras are down, or they are slow, or they are not recording very effectively, so they are creating some challenges …our metal detection systems are challenging because they are the very old technology they are older units,” he added during a conversation with reporters, including FOX 8, Monday afternoon.
The upgrades come with a steep price tag of about $3 million. Thompson said the money is there through sources, including grants and would not come from the district’s general fund.
He added that when you consider the district’s overall operating budget, it amounts to only about one percent of the overall cost.
If approved by the school board on Monday, the upgrades will also take time to install.
Metal detectors could be operational in about six weeks, according to Thompson, but the cameras would take longer since they must be installed and the software to operate them integrated through the entire district.
That is expected to take until spring at the earliest.
In the meantime, the district will have to do the best it can using the old technology and its employees.
The hiring of new police ‘liaison’ officers is also on Monday’s Board of Education agenda.
The district recently hired two new school resource officers were recently hired to be able to have officers in every middle and high school.
In addition, the district employs 63 safety personnel who work in those schools.
How children are getting guns is another concern.
“In the context of these guns being taken in the schools, why aren’t these guns secured, where are they getting them from? I’m sure not all are coming from home right so obviously there is access to these weapons out in the community, and that’s the problem,” said Akron police Lieutenant Michael Miller.
Both Miller and Thompson expressed gratitude to the alert students and administrators who were able to address the two incidents before anyone was hurt.
Police on Monday could not say what they believe the intention of the students was when they took guns into the school buildings, but they know the 17-year-old student intended to go to the Firestone vs Buchtel basketball game at the school that evening.
Over the weekend the district, using K9s from five different police agencies trained to detect firearms, went through the two buildings and Thompson says no other firearms were discovered.
“It truly is a minority of students that are engaged in these kinds of behaviors. It’s not the majority of students, but it certainly gives a sense of fear for way too many people, staff and students alike, so we have to get a handle on this,” said Thompson.