Gun slips through middle school metal detector

Thursday, Jan. 10, 2018
News 12 at 6/NBC at 7

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Deputies say a student managed to get loaded gun into Burke County Middle, a school that actually uses metal detectors. They've had metal detectors there for more than 20 years.

The school and investigators are still trying to figure out how a gun slipped through their security system. The school and the Burke County Sheriff's Office say even metal detectors are not fool proof.

"People want their students and their children to be 100% safe, but we're not going to lie to you that's just not realistic," said Chief Deputy Lewis Blanchard with the Burke County Sheriff's Office.

The price of safety doesn't come cheap.

"Less than 9% of schools use metal detectors in the United States according to the National School Safety Council," Blanchard said.

Richmond and Columbia County schools used to have metal detectors, but don't anymore. Aiken schools never did, but Burke County still does. They have them in both the high school and at the middle school, costing $4,000 each.

"There are pros to them," Blanchard said. "On one hand they give you a false sense of security."

Both Burke County schools use them every day. Students line up down the hallway and one by one they go through one of two metal detectors. If you set it off an administrator will take you into a classroom to check your bag. They even have security wands as backup.

"I'm glad that we have them, Blanchard said. "It does help to deter and it has helped caught stuff in the past."

But Blanchard says it's not a fool proof system.

"As we all know schools have many entrances, hundreds of windows," Blanchard said. "And at the end of the day, although nobody likes to hear this, if somebody wants to get a gun into the building they can get a gun into the building."

Even if you're late, they have a tardy station set up by the front office. Students have to check in, walk through bullet proof doors and still walk through a metal detector or get wanded.

"You can't have one simple solution that solves it," Blanchard said. "There is a multitude and layers of things that you have to do and even if it's perfect you still can get through."

Which is exactly what happened at Burke Middle yesterday. Moving forward, the school system is looking over their policies and procedures to see what they can improve on or add. There have been no decisions yet, but they are talking about the posibility of students only having clear backpacks next year, like they do at NFL and college football games.