GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Guilford County Schools will begin to install touchless weapon detectors machines at the entrances of select high schools in the summer, which could lead to wider usage across the district to keep students safe.
Evolv detectors will go up in Smith High School and High Point Central High School as students there begin summer school.
The district chose these locations because they are central and because they have the highest number of students in attendance this summer.
“There are not a lot of summer school students, so we wanted to put them at a school where there could be more students to go through the system so we can get a better idea of how it will work,” Guilford County Schools Security Director Mike Richey said.
The technology includes movable detectors, which allow students to walk through any entrance at their normal rate of speed.
The detection system is able to pick up and point out if the individual has anything in their backpack or on them that has the characteristics of a weapon.
Monitors, which will include trained teachers and other faculty members, will be alerted by a screen that is set up next to the detectors.
Those students will then be pulled aside for a secondary check.
“You pulled less people aside. But when you do, you have a very limited location of where you’re looking at because it’s highlighting that for you,” Richey said.
The machines are computed by AI software but are only able to pick up if something has the characteristics of a weapon and not if it is a weapon.
An example that the director used to explain the software is an umbrella. At its center is a double-looped barrel, which is a similar characteristic of a rifle.
The director explained this could cause more students to get pulled out of line at the beginning of the implementation of these machines, but that number will decrease once students begin to trust and understand the technology more.
The software is exactly what is being used in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Schools and five other school districts in the country.
They have seen success in curbing violent altercations that take place in their schools.
At Tuesday’s Guilford County School Board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras explained that the machines are meant to stop the more common high school situations and altercations of gun violence and not mass shootings like what was seen in Uvalde, Texas
“These are meant to deal with high volumes of people coming into schools, and it’s really meant for threats that come from internal,” Richey said.
The pilot program will be analyzed this summer with the hope to bring more machines online to the 19 high schools within the district if it proves to be successful.
Some schools would have more than others if approved.
Further down the road could include machines for middle school campuses but not elementary school campuses.
Director Richey explained that most gun violence and other violent crime happens within the campus and by those within the student body at high school and middle school campuses.
Elementary school crimes typically involved a person who is not a student.
The machines could cost $1 million a year for the first year, which will be covered by funds that the district received for COVID-19 relief.
Parents and students are being asked to provide their input on the machines with open houses.
Smith High School will host an open house on Wednesday, June 22, between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
High Point Central High School will host an open house on Thursday, June 23, between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.