School starts to beeping of metal detector Gunfire prompts use at Northern High

October 09, 1995|By Jean Thompson | Jean Thompson,SUN STAFF

At Northern High School, the steady beep of metal detectors has become a familiar sound of the morning ritual, as common as the first bell.

Weapons searches started at Northern two weeks ago, after a shooting in a hallway in which no victims or witnesses have come forward.

Principal Alice Morgan Brown laments the need to subject students to the metal detectors -- they are inconvenient, but necessary.

Since the searches started, "Mostly, we've confiscated knives and beepers, sometimes a metal fingernail file," Ms. Brown said. The city's student code of conduct prohibits weapons and pagers.

Pat-downs and purse searches are conducted when a cursory (( search for the cause of the scanner beeps is inconclusive. In a room off the hallway, two women quickly search the girls and their bags; two men the boys.

"I'm clean," a student protests, as a teacher swishes a beeping hand-held scanner down his long-sleeved T-shirt, his clear book bag.

Over the din of the dozens more students who await their turns, the teacher thanks him and allows him to pass. They exchange a nod -- no hard feelings.

Rick Davis, a school "breakthrough team" member, tells a student who set off the alarm: "Help us out, man. Make this place a better place. If you see something, come tell us, OK?" His search turns up a calculator.

The team members counsel students and teach peer mediation skills. "I think it's good, but also I think it's bad," Lazarus Okafor, 16, said after clearing the metal detectors. "It's good because the school needs security like that, you know, to make students feel safer. But it's also bad, because they can't really stop it. People who do carry guns will carry it anyway, and hide it maybe outside."

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