Henrico County Schools launches new weapons detection systems

New technology meant to keep Henrico school safe.
Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 6:52 PM EDT
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - Henrico County Public Schools unveiled brand new weapons detection systems that students will have to walk through every day in order to attend class.

The move comes as school safety remains a top concern nationally.

After ongoing conversations about safety threats in schools, HCPS put words into action by investing in scanning systems.

This also comes after a student found a gun inside a trash can at Longdale Elementary School in May.

“Anything that we can do from a safety standpoint, our parents are very supportive of that,” said Director of School Safety John Casullo. “Tremendous support because they understand the landscape of what’s going on in the world today.”

The rollout of the machines will happen in phases. On the first day of class this year, all high school students will have to walk through the machines, but it will be some time before middle schools and elementary schools get them.

Casullo says these machines are different from your standard metal detectors because they are less intrusive.

Students will be able to walk through with their personal items like backpacks, phones and keys.

They will only have to take out their laptops, other large electronics and possibly large water bottles.

“We are trying to make sure that we’re not building fortresses; we are still educators, and they’re our schools,” Casullo said.

Casullo says the technology is effective for large groups and likely won’t slow anyone down in the mornings.

However, if the machine goes off, the student will have to walk through again and may be subject to a backpack search.

“We want them to have a comfort level with this. We’re also conscious of the impact on our students,” Casullo said. “We work with our counselors and our school-based mental health teams to make sure that they’re in place on day one.”

Casullo says parents won’t be notified if their child has been searched unless there is a real issue or concern.

“We’re putting a lot of communications out ahead of time, we’re putting out videos, want parents to be comfortable with the process,” he added. “We’re even going to have this technology at our open houses at schools so parents can see what it looks like.”

One of the biggest challenges is finding staff to work the machines, but Casullo says several administrators have already been trained on the new technology.

“We have safety monitors that are going to be that’s going to be their duty every day to help monitor and man the stations for weapons detection technology,” Casullo said.

Casullo says each unit costs $15,000, but every school gets a different number of units based on how many students they have and points of entry throughout the building...so the total cost is still up in the air.