Inglewood schools Supt. George J. McKenna said Friday he has reluctantly decided to ask the school board to approve metal detectors at the high schools and junior highs in an effort to keep guns off the campuses.
"I'm offended by the need to use metal detectors," McKenna said, "but I'm realistic enough to believe that I have to have them given the state of the times."
School officials said guns have been confiscated and students expelled for carrying them.
Thomasina M. Reed, president of the Inglewood Unified School District board, said school officials first began discussing the need for metal detectors after the recent shooting deaths of two students on Los Angeles high school campuses.
And two Inglewood basketball stars were arrested March 15 when police found two guns, one loaded, in their car. A 14-year-old also was in the car. McKenna declined to discuss the case.
McKenna said he will ask the Board of Education at its April 14 meeting to approve a metal detector policy that he and the district police force are developing.
McKenna said he will recommend that the district purchase hand-held detectors rather than install costly and disruptive walk-through detectors like those at airports and courthouses.
It would be too costly and impractical to use permanent detectors because the schools have many entrances, McKenna said. Hand-held detectors, however, could be used by the district's police force for random searches. "I would feel that the random (searches)," McKenna said, "would at least let kids know they might be searched at any time."
The district has a few hand-held detectors that have long been used by school police at athletic events, particularly those held in the high school gyms. The detectors, however, have not been used on other parts of the school campuses, and officials would need more detectors to expand the searches. How many more is undecided, and an overall cost estimate is not yet available.
Board member Lois Hill Hale said she would withhold support of the policy until she sees it, but she contends that detectors have become a necessary tool to ensure the safety of students.
In the wake of the shootings at Fairfax and Reseda high schools, Los Angeles Unified School District officials last month approved the use of hand-held detectors, or scanners as they are sometimes called. Los Angeles scanners cost about $110 apiece.
The move to get metal detectors in Inglewood, Hale said, was made by the superintendent and did not come as a result of parent pressure. Parents have always felt confident that their children were safe, largely because Inglewood has not had any campus shooting deaths, she said.
She credited school police with keeping tight control on the school campuses and knowing which youths were at risk of belonging to gangs.