PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Some safety changes are underway in Philadelphia public schools. The district will begin periodically testing students for weapons beginning Monday.
Gun detection is already done in Philadelphia public high schools. Beginning Monday, the district will add middle schools to the list due to the violence.
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It’s a ripple effect that Philadelphia school officials say is spreading through the school system.
“They copy what they see. They see guns and they bring guns,” said School District of Philadelphia Chief of School Safety Kevin Bethel.
On Thursday, school leaders sent a letter to parents.
Addresses what they call an increase in incidents related to weapons and violence by implementing weapons tests in middle and elementary schools with grades six through eight.
“We have had at least four occurrences. Two where we actually had guns at school, another where a kid fired a gun a block from school after school. We think that kid had that gun at school,” Bethel said.
According to the letter, screenings will take place at six schools per day. These will be conducted by school security personnel and will include wand searches, a mobile metal detector, and a physical check of all bags.
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“What our children need right now in this moment is love, support, care and fun. They don’t need to be treated like criminals,” said Philadelphia City Councilman Jamie Gauthier.
Gauthier called the move a step in the wrong direction, one that she was unaware of.
“I have a lot of questions about this, about why the Council didn’t commit to this idea, why didn’t anyone ask us for our opinion. I don’t know how the community got engaged with this idea, I have a lot of questions and concerns,” he said.
But for Philadelphia parents like Thomesha Butler, their only concern is their daughter’s safety. While she admits the projections can be scary, they are necessary.
“It might scare them a little bit, but I think it’s a good idea to start doing it because we’re in a city school,” Butler said.
According to the letter, students will be given the opportunity to dispose of the items prior to being searched without consequence. Students found with a firearm will be referred to the Philadelphia Police Department.
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CBS3’s Jan Carabeo contributed to this report.