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Lawrence school district officials rule out installing metal detectors at schools

Lawrence Township public school district officials have ruled out installing metal detectors at the schools, in the wake of the arrest of a 15-year-old Lawrence High School student who brought a loaded handgun into school on Dec. 8.

Superintendent of Schools Ross Kasun said that “as may be expected,” he received a few emails requesting metal detectors at the school entrance doors, following the incident.

“We explored that possibility in the past and frankly, it offers a false sense of security. The way a school is designed, I’m not sure it will keep us safe. It doesn’t seem to work in school settings,” Kasun told the school board at its Dec. 8 meeting.

Kasun said a metal detector would not have made a difference in this instance.

It is the relationships that matter and that make a difference, he said. It’s people “doing something or saying something when things are not right” that helps and that’s what made the difference on Dec. 8, he said.

Around 8:15 a.m. Dec. 8, Lawrence High School administrators learned that a student might be in possession of a weapon in school, Kasun said. Administrators and Police Officer Steven Austin, who is the school resource officer at Lawrence High School, found the student and took him into custody. He had a loaded handgun in his possession.

Lawrence High School was placed on lockdown as soon as administrators were told of the potential for a student to have a handgun in school. After it was determined that there was no immediate threat, the lockdown was replaced with a shelter-in-place order so that students could remain in their first-period class, Kasun said.

The Lawrence Township Police Department, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office searched students’ backpacks and checked the school grounds. No additional weapons were found, and the shelter-in-place was lifted around 11 a.m.

“We had lunch ready for students, and a skilled staff to continue to watch them throughout the day – to keep an eye on them and to provide, more than anything, some normalcy,” Kasun said.

The safety and security of students and staff in the Lawrence Township Public Schools’ top priority, he said. Weapons of any kind will not be permitted on school property, and any student caught with a weapon will be referred to the Lawrence Township Police Department and punished accordingly, Kasun said.

A student who has possession of a weapon on school grounds will be expelled from the district, according to school district policy, he said.

When the meeting was opened for public comment, resident Rick Jones told the school board that “we don’t realize how close we came to duplicating what happened in Michigan.”

Jones was referring to the Nov. 30 incident in Oxford Township, Michigan, in which an Oxford High School student brought a gun to school and killed four students.

Acknowledging that he does not know “the right way to go” to keep guns out of school, Jones said he does not approve of installing metal detectors at the schools.

Jones urged school district officials to spend some time thinking about how to keep weapons out of school “to begin with,” rather than hoping that someone will “tattle-tale” on the person with a gun.


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