Education

Lancaster County schools say increased security helping improve student safety

Walk-through metal detectors, K9 units and electronic locks are some of the safety measures the Lancaster County School District has in place.
Walk-through metal detectors, K9 units and electronic locks are some of the safety measures the Lancaster County School District has in place. Contributed photo

Walk-through metal detectors, K9 units and electronic locks are some of the ways the Lancaster County School District is enhancing student safety.

Metal detectors are being used at different times and locations throughout the district and were recently used at a Lancaster High School versus Andrew Jackson High School basketball game, said Bryan Vaughn, director of safety and transportation for the Lancaster County School District.

“We want to send a message that our schools are safe during school hours and during after-school activities,” Superintendent Jonathan Phipps said in a statement posted to the safety department’s Facebook page. “Making sure our schools are safe is a top priority for us, and we’re determined to take every step we can to be sure students and their families are safe as they take part in school-sponsored events.”

Before the basketball game, the district reminded residents on the district Facebook page that the detectors would be used. Banned items include book bags, pocketknives and similar devices or weapons. Handbags are also subject to inspection by security.

“We think it’s a deterrent,” Vaughn said. “The students have been very compliant. Community members appreciate what we are doing and think it’s making a difference.”

The Lancaster school district has had a metal detector policy for more than 20 years, and has used handheld devices for specific cases, Vaughn said.

The district announced in October that it would expand its use of metal detectors on campuses amid a rising number of shootings involving school-age children in the Lancaster community.

Vaughn said district officials understand that schools are a part of the community, and that whatever happens in the Lancaster area may filter into campuses.

In October, a Lancaster student was charged with bringing a loaded gun to Andrew Jackson High School. The gun was found the same day another Lancaster County school, Indian Land High School, called in extra law enforcement after a shooting threat was found in a school bathroom. No shootings occurred.

Last spring, the district began talk of at using walk-through metal detectors on high school campus and other areas, Vaughn said.

The district purchasing four more walk-through detectors, Vaughn said. They will be used on a random schedule.

“When you have a set routine, people are able to find ways around it,” Vaughn said. “The idea is to make those people that might be prone to bring weapons to school, to make it a very uncomfortable situation to them and make them less likely to bring a weapon into school.”

The idea is to make those people that might be prone to bring weapons to school, to make it a very uncomfortable situation to them and make them less likely to bring a weapon into school.

Bryan Vaughn, director of safety, Lancaster County School District

The Lancaster County School District also has installed magnetic-keycard swipe access at some school doors, Vaughn said.

“It helps us be able to do a better job of knowing who is in the buildings,” he said.

Every staff member is issued a badge. Their access depends on their job level, Vaughn said. For example, teachers may have access during the times they are working while administrators may have 24/7 access to campus buildings.

Temporary badges can be issued to vendors and who may need to be in the buildings for a short time.

The cards allow the district to monitor who accesses the building through an online system, Vaughn said.

The district also now has a one-button system for instantly putting an entire school on lockdown, Vaughn said. The system is part of $1.7 million in safety-lock upgrades that are included in the district’s $199 million funded by last year’s bond.

Administrators and office staff may use the lockdown system, Vaughn said.

The district is also using a K9 dog unit that can detect gun powder residue on cars and other areas not served by metal detectors.

Vaughn said the district has received positive feedback from community members, parents and students regarding the increased security measures.

“Anything we can do to limit access to our schools and make them safer from intruders is something parents and staff alike are very accepting of,” he said.

Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082

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