LAKELAND, Fla. — With the new school year underway, students who attend Polk County Public Schools are adjusting to a new safety policy. At the district’s middle and high schools, students will be randomly searched for weapons and dangerous items.
According to Superintendent Frederick Heid, the policy was implemented to bolster school safety after national incidents like the school shooting in Uvalde, TX.
“We are well within our rights to make sure our campuses are safe and secure,” Heid said during a recent news conference.
According to the district’s website, the random screenings will involve the use of metal detector wands. Purses and bags will also be searched.
Heid said law enforcement would not conduct the searches. Instead, a collection of school and district administrators — like deans and assistant principals — will perform the searches. However, law enforcement will be present “should dangerous or illegal items be found.”
The searches will happen in some capacity at all middle and high schools daily.
Heid stresses that the searches will be truly random.
“These are not searches that are done every single day at the same location, at the same time,” he said.
Schools might rotate the location of searches. For instance, searches could be conducted at one school entrance on one day and at another entrance on the following day.
Heis said schools might also rotate how students are randomly picked for a search.
“So it could be every tenth child that walks through the door — every fifteenth child that walks through the door — but it has to be truly randomized, and the school has to have a plan in place, and all of that’s been addressed through their training so that we are compliant with state and federal policies,” he said.
The NAACP Lakeland Branch wants to make sure the policy is carried out fairly and equitably but understands why Polk County Public Schools is concerned about safety, says branch president Terry Coney.
“I always err on the side of safety,” Coney said.
Coney, however, said his branch has a direct line of communication with Heid, will attend school board meetings and will monitor the new policy to make sure it’s fair and random.
“It’s just a matter of if they can do it equitably, given the demographics of kids in schools,” Coney said.
Read more from the district about the policy at this link.
According to the district, there were 44 weapons confiscated from students “with intent to do harm” last year. Of the objects confiscated, six were firearms.
The district said it will send out an automated telephone call to let parents know when their students are searched.