Following concerns by parents, a policy change that would allow random searches of students and visitors to Volusia County Schools using metal detectors was tabled by the School Board on Tuesday, Jan. 23.
The policy, part of the district's student code of conduct, was advertised by the district to add a clause stating "all visitors to Volusia County School sites or events are on notice that searches may be conducted at
random and without cause by the site administrator. Furthermore, the use of an electronic device may be utilized
to assist with the search." The amendment was last discussed by the board at its Dec. 12, 2023, meeting. It was unanimously approved to be advertised.
"There are too many questions," Moms for Liberty Volusia Chapter Chair Jenifer Kelly said. "What does random searches without cause for all visitors using metal detectors look like? What impacts will this have on students? Is this constitutional?"
Another parent, Jeff Miller, said that if the board approved the amendment, it would be a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures" by government.
"At this point in time, what we're noticing in Volusia County is you guys are setting up children to be put into the criminal system," Miller said.
Volusia United Educators President Elizabeth Albert said the proposed amendment has the potential to create "a culture of fear and intimidation" in schools.
"Have you stopped to consider the potential trauma that allowing random searches to children could potentially result in?"
Volusia County School Board Attorney Aaron Wolfe said that the proposed amendment to the student code of conduct was constitutional and legal.
"The courts have uniformly recognized the need for randomized safety screenings as reasonable and necessary to further an important state interest in keeping schools safe from weapons," Wolfe said.
In 1985, the Supreme Court ruled that school officials don't need probable cause to search students — but they do need reasonable suspicions.
In the 2022-2023 school year, VCS reported 39 weapons were carried onto campuses by students.
School Board member Ruben Colon supported the amendment, citing it as another safety measure for students, and one that has been implemented in other school districts.
Other board members were wary about the way the proposed amendments were worded. School Board member Carl Persis said that, while he supported searching students when officials find they have reasonable suspicion to do so, he didn't support random searches.
"There is no — in my mind — no sufficient evidence that proves that they are effective," Persis said. "In fact, what is consistently said is that random searches can be very disruptive. They can take away staff time. They obviously will interrupt learning time."
The odds of doing a random search and catching a student with a weapon would be low, he added.
School Board member Anita Burnette said she had no issues with the implementation of metal detectors — but she doesn't like the way the policy was written.
"My biggest problem is the word 'random search,'" she said. "I don't understand why we can't say, 'Anybody stepping on property is potentially going to have to walk through a metal detector.'"
School Board Chair Jamie Haynes agreed that the language can be clearer — especially since the policy doesn't address the fact that metal detectors are already in place at high schools for sporting events.
Board member Jessie Thompson said having a workshop on the topic would help them be better informed on the issue before voting.
"I think we should talk it out and get all the pros, all the cons — get everything out and get the language where we can all agree on it," Thompson.