Some elementary schools have turned to metal detectors for safety.

The prevalence and media coverage of school shootings and violent acts has contributed to increased debate over metal detectors in schools. The December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Connecticut escalated discussions about the benefits and drawbacks of such devices. Debate typically centers around the potential safety advantages and the cultural stigma.

Detect Weapons

The most prominent benefit of a metal detector in a school is that it can detect weapons on students and visitors as they enter the school. In schools currently using detectors, students have been caught with guns, knives and other weapons. Detection of a weapon, detainment of the student or guest, and an investigation may not only prevent a tragic incident at the time it occurs, but it may lead to an arrest or treatment to prevent future occurrences.

Deter Weapons

An indirect benefit of detectors is that they may naturally deter students, staff and guests from considering bringing a weapon to school. Someone who knows that a school has detectors may be less likely to bring a weapon because of the high potential for getting caught by the scanner. Thus, a detectors is not only a preventative strategy, but a proactive security technique.

Time and Money

Standard walk-through metal detectors cost around $2,000 per unit, according to a March 2013 article. School districts on tight budgets may question the return on investment in comparing this expense to others. Additionally, it is costly to hire and train security personnel to monitor doors and physically check people when scanners go off. Machine repairs and additional utility charges are among other costs associated with implementing detectors.


The stigma of having detectors in schools is another common concern in many communities. School officials, parents and students sometimes worry that detectors at the doors will impede a positive, character-driven school culture. A September 2012 article in "The New York times" noted that many people worry that schools will develop a prison-like culture where students feel a sense of fear or guilt each day as they walk through the doors.