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Columbia Public Schools demonstrates weapons detection system at Hickman High School


Columbia Public Schools demonstrated a "touchless" weapons detection system Tuesday in response to high school students' calls for increased safety amid frequent school shootings.

The technology is made by a company called Evolv. The demonstration was held as students made their way into Hickman High School for their school day.

The system is meant to detect weapons on people as they enter a building. It resembles a metal detector but uses AI programming to detect the density and size of materials that make up the slide or barrel of a gun. Sensitivity can be adjusted to also scan for weapons such as knives, but there will be more false alarms with higher sensitivity, a representative from Evolv said.

The representative said the choice to increase sensitivity would fall on those operating the system.

Patrons pass through the system while an official monitors a screen that sends an alert if there are possibly hidden weapons.

The system is made of two pillars. It's free-flow and touchless, meaning someone just walks through the system. People do not need to stop, get patted down or have their bags checked.

"One of the main concerns has been whether or not we could handle a building that has 2,000 students arriving to campus at the same time and not interrupt the daily operations of the building," CPS spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said. "Certainly we want something that doesn't feel intimidating for the students."

The system is a four year subscription. Depending on the settings, functions and infrastructure of of the system, the cost comes out to be roughly $2,000 dollars per month per unit.

The detection system is mobile and can be moved around for whatever purposes it may be needed.

CPS is looking to use the system in high schools.

The demonstration was propelled forward by students wanting security and safety measures to be upgraded. Hickman students took part last week in a national walkout to protest gun violence after a shooting at a Nashville private school.

Baumstark said that the school system wants to be responsive.

"This is what we're looking at right now," Baumstark said. "We do have multiple layers of protection available at all of our school buildings. Everything from the buzz-in systems, locked doors, camera systems and security personnel in all of our buildings."

"It's a really delicate balance I think," school board member Jeanne Snodgrass said. "We're concerned about safety, but we're also very concerned about this continuing to feel like a school."

Snodgrass said the administration is looking at all options available and the board will evaluate community and student feedback about the system.

Snodgrass said nothing has been decided yet. Budgeting needs to be considered before a decision is made.

Systems made by Evolv are already used in places like casinos and stadiums, including in Missouri.

The St. Louis City Soccer Club of Major League Soccer uses an Evolv system to scan fans entering their 22,500 seat stadium.

According to the company's website, Evolv systems are used nationwide by teams including the Cleveland Browns, the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros and in Gillette Stadium.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia Public Schools

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Ethan Heinz


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