In response to increased gun violence in Philadelphia middle schools, school officials are implementing more drastic security measures. According to a report from Campus Safety Magazine, randomly selected students will be screened for weapons at roughly six schools per day at middle schools and elementary schools with middle grades. Parents and teachers fear the move may backfire.
Philadelphia Middle Schools Crackdown on Weapons
At least once during the academic year, sixth, seventh, and eighth-graders will be randomly screened with metal detectors by school safety officers, typically when they arrive in the morning. Before students are screened, they'll have the opportunity to discard any weapons or “inappropriate items,” which can be anything from firearms to sharp tools.
The crackdown follows similar actions by school districts across the country in response to an increase in misbehavior, despite public backlash. Parents are concerned the screenings will be used as an opportunity for students to get in serious trouble for minor infractions. Many also doubt that they are truly “random” and worry about their kids being profiled.
Negative Psychological Implications Caused By Weapons Screening
Philadelphia parents and teachers have called the weapons screening mandate “reactionary” and say it will demoralize students by making them think they're the problem. Classroom reports that the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) believes the introduction of metal detectors and weapons screenings creates a “militarized environment” that leaves students stigmatized as “violent and untrustworthy,while doing little or nothing to ease their fears of crime.”
NASP warns against the imposition of extreme security measures that undermine the ability of students to learn and don't necessarily reduce the risk of weapons on school campuses. Not much is known about the potential negative consequences of these stringent security measures for the students they're meant to protect.
“The sudden announcement that students will be searched by adults at unpredictable times goes against all principles of trauma-informed care for students,” one district parent echoed in concern for her own children, Chalkbeat Philadelphia reports. “Searching children at school also has the potential to especially harm minoritized students, and contribute to the school to prison pipeline.”
Severe Punishments for Students Possessing Weapons on School Grounds
In Pennsylvania, punishments for students who bring weapons to school include:
- Long-term suspension
- Ban from district schools
The definition of “weapon” in the Pennsylvania School Code is vague. §13–1317.2 says that a district cannot expel a student for “possession of a weapon” unless the item is “inherently capable of and intended to cause injury.” This means that, regardless of what school officials may locate on your child during a random search, he or she won't face harsh sanctions if it's proven the object cannot cause harm.
How Can a Student Defense Attorney Help Your Child?
If you're the parent of a middle- or high-school student in Pennsylvania, you should know your child's rights.
Joseph D. Lento is an experienced attorney in student defense matters, helping parents across Pennsylvania and also the nation defend their children from harsh school disciplinary action. He and the team at the Lento Law Firm understand the regulations imposed by local school boards and requirements for timely parental notice when these change.
If your child has been unfairly targeted by school weapons screenings, call the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 or visit the online consultation form. Your child's future depends on it.