PHILADELPHIA - The efforts to combat gun violence in Philadelphia has reached the city’s middle schools as School District of Philadelphia officials say they’ll begin periodically screening students for weapons.
Beginning Monday, May 9, 6th through 8th grade students will be subject to the periodic weapons screenings. The district says that the screenings will take place at six schools per day and be conducted at every middle school and elementary schools with middle grades.
Every school will be screened at least once before the end of the school year.
This school year, the districts reports there have been two incidents of weapons in or near school property.
"We want to make sure people understand we’re doing everything possible to keep our schools the safe heavens we believe them to be," said Monica Lewis with the School District of Philadelphia.
Abdella Kreds, a junior at Ben Franklin High School, is no stranger to metal detectors.
"I think it’s a pretty safe thing for everybody to go through it everyday," Krebs said.
He says it doesn't really surprise him that kids as young as 6th grade need to be checked."
"You never know what kids my generation may carry or not, even 8th and 7th graders," he said.
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The district says the screenings will be conducted by school safety personnel in the presence of at least one school leader. The screenings will utilize hand wands and metal detectors to screen for weapons, and all bags, backpacks and personal items will be checked.
The screenings will take place in the morning, and in most cases, be conducted in the school's entryway.
Even a 9-year-old in third grade understands the importance of these screenings.
"I think it is safe for the other kids to make sure that no other person has weapons on them for safety," third-grader Jasmie Weld said.
District officials say students will be give an opportunity to dispose of any illegal or inappropriate items prior to being screened without consequence.
Confiscated weapons like knives, pellet guns and brass knuckles will not be returned. Students who elect not to participate in the screening will be referred to school leaders.
If students are found to be in possession of a firearm they will be detained by school safety officials and referred to the Philadelphia Police Department., officials say. The district warns those students will also face a penalty.
"We want to make sure that first parents understand they should be having conversations with their children about weapons, and not bringing them to school," Lewis said.
In a letter sent home to parents, school district officials cited an increase in gun-related incidents and violence taking place in schools an communities as a reason for the screenings.
"The District understands that this level of screening may feel intrusive and inconvenient. The Office of School Safety is committed to implementing this process with transparency and sensitivity towards the various and unique social, developmental and societal factors. School Safety personnel will treat every individual fairly with dignity and respect. If you have additional questions, please email email@example.com," the letter read.