Broward Public Schools plans to install metal detectors in all high schools this fall


Jimena Tavel, Miami Herald

Instead of slowly rolling out metal detectors to all of its high schools in years to come as previously planned, the Broward School Board decided Tuesday to aggressively target all high schools by the end of the fall semester.

 “I don’t really want to wait. I want to do all of our high schools now,” said Lori Alhadeff, the board’s chair whose daughter Alyssa was killed during the 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland. 

Tuesday’s discussion was the most recent regarding a weapons detection program that launched in March 2022, when Broward Public Schools started doing random screenings with handheld metal detectors in all schools.

This March, the Broward School Board decided to expand the program by installing walk-through metal detectors in high schools. The board unanimously voted on March 20 to pay $540,000 to test the devices this summer. 

Board members agreed to launch a pilot program at two high schools — Charles W. Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines and J.P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs. If the strategy worked, they planned to roll them out to 10 other high schools in the 2024-25 school year, and then the remaining high schools in the 2025-26 school year.

But during a School Board workshop on Tuesday, board members amended those plans after worrying about inequity among schools who get the detectors first versus last. 

“The community will feel different if all high schools have the system as opposed to having to sort out why did yours and not yours and all that — that’s not a healthy feeling,” said Allen Zeman, a board member. “The healthy feeling is every kid that goes to a high school has as much safety and security as we can provide to them.” 

Board members agreed to get the walk-through detectors to all 32 high schools in the county as soon as possible. They planned to vote on the fund allocation needed during a later meeting to make the decision official.

The walk-through detectors that the school district will install aren’t the traditional ones, but newer, battery-operated ones that use artificial intelligence to show the location and type of a weapon passing through. Each detector, which includes two towers and a floor mount, costs about $16,480.

In total, it would cost about $1.9 million to purchase at least 100 detection systems to cover all high schools. Each high school will require about three systems, but maybe more or less, depending on arrival patterns, physical layout and student enrollment. 

Although all board members identified the urgency of making all schools safer, some questioned how quick the district could get it done.

The district will have to assign security personnel to the detection system after installing them, and then teach them how to use it. It will take about two days to train each group.

“I think its the most equitable thing, if that’s logistically possible,” said Board Member Sarah Leonardi. 

“I worry about the logistics of it ... but if you all think you can do it well, I trust your expertise,” she told the district’s law enforcement staff.

In the 2022-23 school year and so far in 2023-24, Broward County Public Schools have documented 220 weapons-related incidents. Out of those, eight incidents — or 3.6% — were related to firearms on campus. 

The school district started with high schools because about 62% of school shootings take place there, said Jaime Alberti, the district’s chief safety and security officer, on Tuesday. Eventually, the school district could also implement the technology in middle and elementary schools.

Jimena Tavel covers higher education for the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald. She’s a bilingual reporter with triple nationality: Honduran, Cuban and Costa Rican. Born and raised in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, she moved to Florida at age 17. She earned her journalism degree from the University of Florida in 2018, and joined the Herald soon after.