Critics: CMS Weapon Search Plan Too Complicated

CHARLOTTE, NC — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has taken the next step toward searching students for weapons in schools.

Starting Tuesday, CMS is ready to search high school students at any time it sees fit.

No one is supposed to know when or where the school district will search students for weapons, but it chose the first eight schools Monday.

The district sealed the names of all 19 high schools in envelopes. In an effort to be fair and not target any specific school, the district chose community faith leader, Dr. Wardell Henderson to pick the eight envelops out of a box. Dr. Henderson signed his name over the seal of each envelope to ensure no one opens them until the searches.

He gave the envelopes to the CMS Police Chief, who is supposed to keep them sealed until the searches.

CMS says at that point, trained staff with police support, will use wands and walk through metal detectors to search students for weapons. They will also search bags.

Before the screenings, schools will go on lockdown. Teams will decide whether to search a classroom, a building on campus or the entire school. They will not pick out individual students to search, the district says.

“It’s not going to be effective,” said one student, Luke Drago. “You’re going to tell me that one to two screenings a year of anywhere from 30 or the whole student body is going to effectively stop something? What happens when you picked the wrong day?”

This is the process the district will use each time it finishes a round of searches.

Principals will notify parents before and after. The district says it will also make the results public.

The district says it chose the faith community to choose the envelops and observe the screenings to ensure no group is being targeted.

Dr. Henderson is part of the Superintendent’s Interfaith Advisory Council. He was the pastor of Weeping Willow A.M.E Zion Church for more than 40 years. He is a Presiding Elder of A.M.E. Zion Church.

“I’m sure we will refine it as we move along and learn more, but the point, again, is not to make a show of this but to build a sense of trust and credibility for the entire process,” said CMS Spokesperson Tracy Russ.

Drago says to keep it simple, put a metal detector at the front door.

“That makes perfect sense,” said Drago. “Have a single point of entry with metal detectors that can process students within 10 to 30 minutes.”

The upgrade comes months after a student shot and killed a classmate at Butler High School.

CMS has since added mental health counselors, upgraded entry locks and cameras, and teachers are going through active survival training.

The latest training happened Monday at the education center.

The district says it is hiring a crisis coordinator that will ensure first responder protocols match up with school policies if there is a shooting. It says it needs to hire more mental health counselors because it does not meet the state’s recommended amount.