Opinion | Metal detectors would not serve their purpose at ETHS


Illustration by Kupu Sumi

Following December’s lockdown, a new topic has hastened its way through ETHS amongst students, teachers, administrators and, most notably, parents and guardians: metal detectors. 

On Dec. 16, 2021, ETHS students and staff experienced what was considered a “hard lockdown,” Which is typically defined as “when there is a specific and imminent threat of violence to students, teachers or staff.” 

For a little over two hours, we all sat in classrooms—and even large storage spaces in my case. I was instantly met with the cold floor as I was pressed up against a closet. Whispers hastily made their way throughout the storage space, small cries of fear were heard and the only light visible came from our phones. 

“The day of our lockdown, I did generally feel scared,” says sophomore Mymy Nguyen. “I was texting all of my close friends and family about the situation.”

Agitation and fear was clearly running at an all time high throughout the school, but we can’t forget about what was happening outside our building. As more and more students were texting their family members, administrators were emailing and calling parents and guardians to advise them on the situation and how it was being handled. As expected, this was not enough to calm the nerves of many.

Different parents pulled up in cars, some arrived walking but in the end, each and every parent outside of ETHS was waiting right there until their child was in their arms. 

When we were finally given our all clear and were dismissed for the rest of the day, even my mom waited at the front of her car with open arms and the tightest hug I’ve ever received in my life. We knew we would be safe, but loved ones will never fail to worry. It is their job. 

The situation that even put us in our hard lockdown all started in the bathroom when students were found smoking marijuana. While searching these students, two handguns were seized and this was taken as an immediate threat. 

“It wasn’t really a threat, just an accident [where ETHS Safety members] found the guns,” states Nguyen. “Nothing was really meant to happen, I don’t think.”

After this danger to students and staff, families are simply left to wonder, “How can we prevent this from happening ever again?”, and with complete reason. 

As teens, we naturally find our parents’ and guardians’ wariness and caution to be a nuisance. We believe it imposes our freedoms as high schoolers and does not allow us to explore the things we would like to explore. Usually, I’d be on the same side of this argument but, I can fully understand why the ETHS stakeholders who are pushing metal detectors for ETHS are doing so. 

In school districts like Chicago Public School (CPS), metal detectors, extra cameras and searches are nothing new. Especially after recent threats within schools, extra security and safety is more than normal. 

Longtime teacher Mr. Feeley supports metal detectors as a teacher and parent of CPS students. 

“I’m a Chicago parent,” Feeley says, “and I did not mind metal detectors at my kids’ high schools at all. As a teacher, I don’t think it’s a real problem either, because I think it can be done in a way that meets its goal, which is deterring people from bringing weapons into the school without causing a lot of chaos or causing unnecessary anxiety.”

Other ETHS parents have similar views. In a recent article by Evanston Now, a petition created by family members of students has collected over two hundred signatures, showing support for metal detectors in our school. Organizer of “Evanston for Safe Schools” and parent of a current ETHS student, Amy Averbuch explains that their petition for metal detectors will push people and students to not bring firearms and other weapons into the high school.

Now, as a 15 year old, currently I will not be able to understand the panic this situation has caused for parents and guardians. Metal detectors would ease many nerves but logically, it’d be a nuisance for safety, staff and especially students. 

With over 3,500 students attending ETHS, if we truly wanted complete safety for kids, we’d have to check each and every one of these students, as well as staff, each day 

In a piece by USA Today, the 2019 Saugus High School shooting is discussed. It’s stated that this shooting caused many calls for help. Metal detectors at the schools were wanted, but experts went on to explain how metal detectors are not the proper response to a situation like this. Chris Dorn, senior analyst for the safety group Safe Havens International explained in the USA Today article that metal detectors are merely too expensive, entrances would naturally be jammed every morning and simply don’t function well in school settings and, lastly, they create a hostile environment. 

Evanston is far from hostile. This is generally known as a safe city. Evanston is where you move your family when looking for safety within a suburb but still just close enough to take weekend trips to the city. 

“Evanston is a pretty safe community. We don’t get a lot of threats, unlike other schools, which is why metal detectors really aren’t necessary here” explains Nguyen. “I think that metal detectors would just be somewhat of a nuisance to me.”

Not only would metal detectors cause constant disturbances in students’ school days, there would eventually be an issue with racial profiling. 

“I think, naturally, there will be profiling. I don’t think there’s going to be a policy that profiles, but I think when you look at the numbers, you’ll find it…Even if it’s random, we’ll probably end up searching or causing more students of color to go through metal detectors more than white students,” voices Feeley. 

In a racial breakdown of ETHS by Illinois Report Card, 45.6 parents of the population here is white. Black students, Indigenous students and students of color make up the other 54.4 percent here at ETHS. Disappointingly, we will see a racial disparity when it comes to who’s being checked and who isn’t being checked if we were to introduce metal detectors at our school. 

“Have you ever waited at an airport and seen how long it takes to get through? In our case, you know, we have thousands of people who all come at the same time. So I think it would absolutely have an effect on [the environment],” expresses Superintendent Dr. Eric Witherspoon.

As much as I’d love to be guaranteed a safe and non-threatening day in school, I simply don’t believe that adding prison-like security procedures in a school is what would solve our issues here. Our real issue still ties back to gun violence and the easy access children have to firearms. 

Who knows why these students felt the need to carry a gun while in school. The real issue always lies within our own neighborhood. Clearly, as a community, there were some holes we must patch. Not only that, but as a nation, we have an extreme issue to solve, and that is gun violence. Especially in schools. 

I understand that metal detectors could be viewed as a solution, but this should not be considered normal. We go to school in hopes of some sort of sanctuary. Your children occupy this building. Fight to change the gun laws within our own country so other families don’t have to feel the way you did when your child texted “I love you” because they thought they would have never seen you again after that day. 

Fortunately for us all, we were able to come out of that building safe and sound due to quick first responders and well-trained staff. We cannot rely on this though. In other situations at schools across the country, others weren’t as lucky as us. Some parents and guardians weren’t able to hold their children in their arms after this like others were. These issues with gun violence and threats have gone on for much too long. This issue goes deeper than just metal detectors and extra security cameras. It’s what we all must eventually learn.