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Long Lines, Big Questions: What’s With the Metal Detectors?


As Tech students approached the school building on the morning of October 9th, they were met with lines stretching around the block, and metal detectors through which they had to enter the building. School Safety officers shouted orders for students to put their cell phones in their bags and empty their pockets. Bookbags were placed on plastic trays, and students stepped through the arches of metal detectors. If the light blinked red, a student would be pulled aside and patted down. Screening one student took three to four minutes, and by the time the first bell rang, hundreds of students were still waiting in line, making many of them late for class.

Students missed tests, teachers postponed their lessons, and elevators were jammed, with the red “overfilled” button blinking for students to get off. 

“I stayed up until 4 [in the morning] to study for my history test, and then the teacher postponed it because of how late the metal detectors made some people,” said Architecture major Srity Sarker (‘25). “It was a good opportunity for those who didn’t study, but for me, it was really frustrating.” 

Several students, who wished to remain anonymous, felt “harassed” by the thorough searches they had to go through, most of which resulted in no findings. 

Dean Jacqueline Manduley explained that all public schools in NYC have to go through random searches as a mandate of the DOE, leaving it beyond the reach of the school administration. “The Brooklyn NYPD sends officers from the School Safety Division, who come to school early to set up the detectors,” Ms. Manduley clarified. “Usually, no one is told in advance, not even the staff. It’s not very often, either—they pop up one year and disappear for the next two or so.” 

Weapons of any kind are illegal to possess inside NYC schools. The list includes pocket knives (over four inches long), pepper spray, and firearms. Although some students wish to carry pepper spray or a pocket knife for self-defense, the policy prevents their potential misuse. “In my experience, the pocketknives and pepper spray were confiscated and not returned,” Ms. Manduley recalled.

According to the Chancellor’s regulations, “The purpose of the metal detector scan is to prevent weapons and/or contraband from entering the schools,” the law (A-432(II)(A)(1)) states. Metal detectors at schools in NYC have been legal for decades, but they’ve only started to take advantage of this in the last two years. 

In 2021, Mayor DeBlasio increased scanning rates after five guns were found in NYC schools in forty-eight hours  – some of which already had permanent metal detectors. This goes to show that metal detectors may not deter students from carrying weapons to school.

All students possess the legal right to decline being searched, and schools can’t force students to waive this right once it’s invoked as per DOE regulation 432(II)(A)(3), “Under no circumstances should a student who refuses to cooperate be denied admission or sent home.” In the scenario where a student objects to being scanned, it is up to the principal to decide how the student will be admitted inside the school. 

This March, New York State attempted to introduce a new type of AI metal detector, Evolv, that would only passively scan students and their belongings as they entered the school, and save time for students and staff. Evolv was being considered as a replacement for the traditional metal detectors throughout the state, depending on its initial success in Utica City, New York. However, Evolv turned out to be unsuccessful, as the scanner failed to detect pocket knives -and, in one case, a police officer’s gun-and instead falsely detected school-issued Chromebooks as weapons. The failure of this new tech makes it clear the traditional metal detectors may be here to stay. 

Despite long lines and time spent waiting on them, metal detectors play an important role in school safety, especially in a city like NYC. Students will have to understand that the detectors are meant to protect them, as irritating as they may be.

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About the Contributor
Nayem Jannat
Nayem Jannat, Opinions Editor
Nayem Jannat (she/her) is a Co-Editor of Opinions and a Layout Editor. Jannat's favorite hobby has always been journaling, so she's thrilled to be writing for The Survey this year. She firmly believes that writing plays a significant role in maintaining unison throughout society. Jannat's go-to news sources are The New York Times and The Atlantic. While she loves to write, Jannat's long-term goal is to be an architect. In her free time, you can catch her scrolling through Pinterest, listening to music, or reading. Her favorite book is The Song of Achilles - she has read it hundreds of times over and doesn't think she'll ever get tired of it.

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