NYPD School Safety Deploys Random Metal Detector Scanning at FLHS

The NYPD School Safety Division recently implemented a random scanning with metal detectors at Francis Lewis High School on April 28 and 29. Security guards and police officers were positioned around the front of the school building as well as the front lobby as each student lined up one by one and completed a thorough weapons check, including walking through metal detectors and undergoing bag scans.

“Something happened,” freshman Joanna Chen said.  “I felt like something happened and it definitely put me on the spot, like it put me on an irregular pace.”

After a series of school violations in New York City public schools, former Mayor Bill De Blasio implemented precautions to limit the amount of danger that occurs on NYC public school campuses. According to thecity.nyc, New York City has deployed metal detectors on an “unannounced rotating basis.”

“This year we have not yet had our random scanning,” Principal Dr. Marmor said. “So, they chose that day to do the random scanning. It would have occurred at some point this year anyway because again every school in New York is subjected to the random scanning. Now, is it a coincidence that they happened to pick that day to do it, probably not, but it isn’t because anybody feared that there was something wrong here.”

Students and faculty members perceived the metal detectors with mixed feelings as it offered not only benefits, but detriments as well.  English teacher Ms. O’Connell explained how metal detectors may be enforcing both a safe and closed off environment in school.

“Metal detectors do help to eliminate any dangerous items that somebody might be carrying, but at the same time people do feel very anxious when they go through metal detectors,” Ms. O’ Connell said. “Just seeing them sort of changes the way we see the school, or see the school environment. So, I think that they do keep us safe but they also kind of spark a different type of reaction, like anxiety or fear.”

Similarly, physical education teacher Mr. Velasco shared his perspective on the suddenness of the events.

“I thought it was really surprising considering this is a safe school, even with everything that happened that week,” Mr. Velasco said. “I think the school community is pretty safe. It was kind of a shock to me and a lot of students to see something that’s not normal for our school environment.”

Ayesha Naveed, a senior at Francis Lewis, expressed the concern she felt when she was interrupted by the police ordering her to get in line.

“I arrived at school as I usually do around 7 am, and I saw a huge group of students waiting outside,” Naveed said. “The police were also there, and told us to get into a line to put all of our metal items and phones in our bags. I was alarmed and confused about why this was happening, but I wasn’t worried because I did not think I had anything incriminating on me.”

Naveed carries pepper spray on her commute to school because it gave her a sense of safety due to the past trauma she has experienced commuting home.

“I used to carry pepper spray with me because in the winter, I would leave the house very early and it would be very dark so my mom and sister suggested that I carry something for protection,” Naveed said. “I also had scary experiences with men that have followed me home after school so I felt that it was necessary that I had something to offer me some sort of security.”

Naveed was suspended for one day by administration for carrying pepper spray into Francis Lewis. Items such as pepper spray, scissors and culinary knives were confiscated by the NYPD School Safety Division during the two days metal detectors were used at Francis Lewis.

“I felt dumbfounded,” Naveed said.  “Throughout my high school career, I have never gotten into any sort of problems and have always done what is asked of me and followed the rules. I wondered why they were suspending students for carrying self defense tools when a shooting had just happened near us. Isn’t it obvious that many students, especially now, felt that we needed to do something to avoid circumstances like this?

“I can see why the Department of Education thinks that pepper spray should not be allowed in schools, but I think they are not looking at the bigger picture,” Naveed added. “People that are carrying pepper spray are not doing it to harm someone else but rather make sure that they are not harmed.”

Ms. O’Connell understands why students may carry items such as pepper spray during their commute, but also expressed the conflict it may present on school grounds.

“It’s about them not feeling safe on their travels, or maybe even walking home at a certain time by themselves, but there are rules in a school building and we have to be mindful of everyone feeling comfortable and safe,” Ms. O’ Connell said. “If kids know that some kids might have those things on them, it could cause fear, concern, or anxiety as well for the other kids.”