Dekalb County Schools approves $8 million dollars for enhanced security measures
Dekalb County Schools approved $8,000,000 + for the Evolv Weapons Detection system for forty middle and high schools throughout the county. This comes after an uptick of weapons confiscated in the district this year. According to Dekalb County Schools, as of February 2, 2023, a total of 16 handguns, 38 knives, and 13 other weapons for a total of 67 weapons have been confiscated.
The weapons detection system will be installed over four years, with year one expected to cost $3,254,355.50, year 2: $1,586,832.55, year 3: $1,586,832.55, and $1,586,832.55 year 4.
Evolv Technology is being used in Atlanta Public Schools, and the company uses a unique combination of AI software and advanced sensors to reliably detect dangerous weapons while significantly reducing nuisance alarms from harmless personal items.
During the presentation Interim Superintendent, Vasanne Tinsley, shared a report on school discipline that showed the number of weapons found to date. In the 2017-2018 school year, 273 weapons were confiscated in Dekalb County Schools, in 2018-2019, 235 weapons, in 2019-2020, 211 weapons, in 2020-2021, 16 weapons and in 2021-2022, 316 weapons and as of March 2023, 310 weapons.
After a detailed presentation on the Evolv Weapons Detection system from the Director of School Safety, Chief Bradly Goper, board members expressed their thoughts about staffing, operations, and the effectiveness of a weapons detection system.
“What happens we won’t have to man every door or every entrance to the building. What we will do is logistically change the egress of the students in the morning to the largest areas,” Chief Bradly Goper, Director of School Safety for Dekalb County, remarked. “So, for example, if you have bus riders that get off in one area and they come into the school, and car riders come to another one- that is when we will have the dual stations. That way, you will only be able to get in the building through those two areas in the morning.”
Superintendent Vassanne Tinsley expressed the possibility of additional stipends for staff who would work the metal detection systems and that school resource officers would not man the mobile stations because they respond to incidents if a weapon is found. Some board members expressed questions about the system and effectiveness.
Newly elected board member Whitney McGinnis was one of the board members who wanted to delay approving the contract until next month for further research. “… I wanted more time to deliberate on what I consider to be a complex and nuanced issue. This item was added to our agenda Friday afternoon, and at the time of our vote, there were still unanswered questions regarding implementation.”
Allyson Gevertz expressed similar concerns on social media before and during the meeting.
“Of note, an agenda item for Evolv Weapons Detection was added on Friday. Our school police officers first made us aware of their desire for the Evolv system during an April, 2022 BOE retreat. At the time, Board members asked many questions and have continued to request further information about the system. Ultimately, the Interim Superintendent is in charge of operating the district, and school safety falls within her purview. However, the expenditure will be at least $8 million over four years, and the Board has the fiduciary responsibility to spend money wisely.”
Board member Whitney McGinnnis wanted to table the agenda item, with Gervertz seconding it, and the board went into the discussion.
Board member Vickie Turner remarked, “…at some point we have to make a decision that our children are important. That our staff they are important. We will not require them to come to buildings that w we have not addressed their safety and well being. That’s not fair. If we are not ready to implement safety then lets keep everyone home learning virtually…”
The motion to table the agenda item for a later date failed. Ultimately the board voted to move forward with the Evolv weapon detection system item on the consent agenda.