After a study of ways to make Bibb County schools safer, a metal detector pilot program is being launched with other measures.
Bibb County school Superintendent Curtis Jones announced Tuesday that metal detectors will be installed only at Westside High School — for now.
"The pilot is intended to help us truly learn what the advantages and disadvantages are, and if that is a direction we can and should go in," Jones stated in a statement.
As the school system revises its safety procedures, officials also will enact a process for random searches in all elementary, middle and high schools to increase student safety awareness in the wake of school shootings and violence across the nation.
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"I believe these actions will help make us safer, and you can rest better knowing we have increased our security measures," Jones stated.
The Baldwin County and Dublin City school districts have metal detectors at their middle and high schools, and Bleckley County uses them at its alternative school.
Bibb County's safety changes follow a Jan. 10 incident in which a Taylor Elementary fourth-grader brought a loaded handgun and 10 rounds of ammunition to school. The weapon was discovered inside a student's jacket in an empty classroom at the end of the school day. Parents called for a clear backpack policy, bag searches or metal detectors after the episode.
The county doesn't have a districtwide clear/mesh backpack policy, but about 10 schools list that kind of bag in their dress codes or supply lists. Some principals have said that clear/mesh bags don't allow much visibility, and prohibited items are usually found in coats and pockets, not backpacks, Jones said previously.
Bibb County schools already have perimeter cameras as well as cameras in classrooms, hallways and common areas. School resource officers are stationed in each middle and high school and patrol the feeder elementary schools in their zone.
The main entrance of each school is kept locked, and visitors must press a buzzer and show identification before the door is opened, said David Gowan, director of safety and security, in a video released by the district last week. Once inside, a vestibule area routes visitors to the office, and there is another locked door that leads to the rest of the school. District employees have ID badges with different levels of clearance that allow them access to the buildings.
Student supervision is in place at every school. Elementary school students are escorted by their teachers from the classroom to the lunchroom, restroom and other areas. At the middle and high schools, teachers monitor the hallways during class changes.