HICKSVILLE — Hicksville Exempted Village Schools' first mass casualty weapons detector ever was installed last week at the high school entrance.
The Screen and Flow Weapons Detector is so called because it screens all who enter the building and flow through the new device, which resembles a metal detector someone may find at a courthouse or airport entrance. But Superintendent Keith Countryman wants one thing made perfectly clear — this is not a metal detector.
"They're not like a standard metal detector," said Countryman, who said the machine is specifically designed to identify mass casualty weapons such as guns, pipe bombs or ammunition. Harmless metallic objects ranging from laptops to wristwatches will provoke no response.
The detector was installed through the efforts of area developer Justin Kuhn, who Countryman praised for his interest in the school system and its students, faculty and staff. Kuhn runs Entry Shield, a company which creates security doors and systems.
The detector is the latest step used by the schools to deter anyone who may want to enter the building with intent to do harm. Should someone attempt to bring a weapon of destruction into the school, the detector will automatically take an image of the person along with the weapons they may have.
"The picture is sent to administration," said Countryman, "who gets in touch with the safety team, which would take on the problem."
According to Kuhn, this is the most advanced detection system ever installed in a school.
Although the school board has talked about adding these detectors for some time now, it has only been put into service last week. "We were still fine-tuning it before," said Countryman, who noted that recently, a test subject brought in a pair of metal baseball bats which set off the detector.
On the plus side, the identification system worked just fine. "We could see what set it off," said Countryman.
Countryman added the new system is safe in other ways, providing less electrostatic exposure than a blow dryer.
The board feels the detector is the next step in safety features at the school, adding to a number of other preventative measures, such as a new lock system and passage of a resolution allowing trained faculty and staff to carry weapons of their own inside the building.
And it's not over yet. The district recently received an Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation grant for $40,000, a large percentage of the $60,000 needed to purchase two identical detectors for the elementary and special event entrances. With other available grant funds, the district needs a comparatively small $5,000 to buy them.
"We have 90 days to have them installed once (the money) is in our hands," said Countryman, who wants to see them up and running by the end of the year.
Public knowledge of Hicksville's upgrades are a must to the superintendent. "We want people to know (about Hicksville Schools' safety features) because they'll know we're not a soft target," he said.
Although no one will say a school shooting could never happen here, these deterrents would give students, staff, and law enforcement time to prepare in case the worst should happen... which Countryman and many others hope and pray never does.
"We all hope they'll never be of use," he said.