• 9 Investigates weapons at schools and metal detectors

    By: Tina Terry


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Christie Bruton said her 17-year-old daughter is a straight A student at West Mecklenburg High School, but at times, Bruton said her daughter hasn’t felt safe at school.

    “There have been incidents where students have brought knives, guns, or blades to school,” Bruton said.

    Records show five cases where weapons were allegedly brought on West Meck campus since January 2015.

    Police reports said a girl tried to spray someone with a can of mace in January. A knife was brought in September and a knife, razor and Taser in October.

    "They didn’t' bring them for nothing. They brought them to fight or cut or shoot someone,” Bruton said.

    In October, Channel 9 reported a 14-year-old student at Ardrey Kell High School was accused of walking the halls with a 9 mm Glock with nine bullets.

    Officials said the student had been carrying the gun in his backpack, undetected, for a few days. Since them there was another case at Ardrey Kell. A police report states last month someone brought a knife onto the campus.

    With so many cases, Channel 9 asked why more schools don’t use metal detectors daily to keep weapons out.

    Charlotte attorney Ken Harris represents the family of Bernard Miller. In 2014, when Miller was 16, police said another student at Albemarle High School shot him in the hip and stomach. Harris thinks metal detectors could prevent such incidents.

    “Our children are our most valuable asset,” Harris said. “So if you are going to have them at a government center, why not have them at school?”

    Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education Chair Mary McCray said daily use of metal detectors could send the wrong message.

    “You ask yourself what kind of school building am I entering here and to me it is very uninviting It is sending the wrong message to parents that okay, you can send your child here, but we can't guarantee anything, because they're coming through metal detectors and as a parent that would turn me off instantly,” she said.

    She said resource officers and parents are the first defense against illegal weapons.

    "What we do is ask our parents to be diligent in knowing what's in their child's backpack or book bag and making sure they check those on a regular basis,” McCray said.

    CMS isn’t alone. Channel 9’s Tina Terry contacted nearly 30 school districts statewide and most of them do not use metal detectors daily – even large districts like Forsyth and Wake counties.

    Statement from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools:

    As a district we are always looking at ways to improve security. We do have handheld metal detectors available at all schools. They are used as needed during the school day, at athletic events and other times for after school events.

    The idea of using metal detectors at school entrances has been considered, but it is not practical. CMS schools have multiple entry points and the enrollment at our high schools may range into the thousands.  This could take hours to get all students processed.

    When Miller was shot at Albemarle High, the school didn’t have metal detectors. Now, Stanly County leaders are considering walk-through detectors for the county’s high schools.

    A spokesman for Stanly County Schools said the least expensive walk-through detector they found was about $2,500, and that was refurbished. New detectors can be priced four to five times as much depending on size.

    Due to on-going civil litigation, Stanly County’s superintendent declined to comment further on the Albemarle High School Shooting.

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