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‘I’m looking forward to feeling safe:’ CMS students describe walking through new body scanners

CMS launched body scanners at seven high schools in the district this week
On Monday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools announced it would be installing body scanners at seven high schools.
Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 6:34 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Walking to homeroom in the morning is now a longer journey.

On Monday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools announced it would be installing body scanners at seven high schools.

During Tuesday’s board meeting, we learned that the next round of body scanners will be installed in schools over the next two weeks.

Body scanners and clear backpacks. Lots of talk about both at Tuesday's Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board meeting.

Last week, CMS installed nearly 20 body scanners in seven high schools as part of the phase one approach.

The work will continue this month.

Related: Security body scanners installed at Hopewell HS, next phases of schools revealed

CMS is adding body scanners in three phases, these scanners were purchased in an effort to make schools safer by catching any potential weapons.

The seven Phase 1 high schools in the district include:

  • Mallard Creek
  • North Mecklenburg
  • Garinger
  • Harding University
  • Hopewell
  • Julius Chambers
  • West Charlotte

Students at the seven schools tell WBTV they walked through them for the first time on Wednesday.

“I was just really surprised that they were actually here and actually going to be in use,” said Hopewell High School junior Neala Kuykendall.

Kuykendall says it was very similar to walking through TSA.

“The chaos of everyone trying to get their stuff out of their book bags, put stuff back in their book bags, some students got pulled aside, some students got stopped, it was very much like TSA, going through the airport security,” Kuykendall said.

An anonymous student at Mallard Creek high school says they were uncomfortable and felt like they were being processed in jail. The student says they understand the need for the scanners but said it made them feel out of place.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools installed the scanners in seven schools in an effort to make schools safer by catching any potential weapons.

Students and staff at the other remaining phase 1 schools also shared their experiences.

Harding University High School student Veronica Bofah also saw the scanners in use at her school on Wednesday.

“I think that we may have some pushback from students and the scanners will be hard to be used efficiently on an open campus like mine,” Bofah said. “I do believe that they’ll help weed out some of the prohibited items being brought to school, but it won’t solve the current ‘epidemic’ that CMS is trying to solve.”

CMS purchased 18 body scanners and other equipment from the company Evolv. Documents show the district will pay nearly $1.7 million over the next three years.

The State denied the district’s request to use American Rescue Plan funds for the scanners. The scanners will be funded through capital outlay funds which are generated from things such as cell tower leases. In addition, the district will use payment from easements.

Evolv started in 2013 and the current scanner, known as Evolv Express launched in 2019.

The Spartanburg 6 school district told WBTV they started using Evolv’s scanners in their schools in 2019 including one high school, a 9th grade only campus, and three middle schools.

Anil Chitkara is the company’s co-founder and head of corporate development. Chitkara says he was inspired to start his business after he and his family witnessed the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

Chitkara says these scanners use a combination of artificial intelligence and advanced sensors to detect weapons, unlike regular metal detectors. He says the wider layout was also designed in an effort to reduce anxiety.

Students and staff can walk through the scanners without the need to stop and it doesn’t detect personal items like phones, keys, or wallets.

“What they allow people to do, kids to do, teachers to do, is walk right through without ever stopping, and if somebody may be carrying a weapon the system identifies a person and the location of the person where the weapon may be and then the school security officer or guard or security staff will help make sure there is no weapon there,” Chitkara said.

He says what they’ve also found in the technology’s speed and its effectiveness and allows staff to be more personable with students.

“It also allows the administrators, teachers, and security staff to look at the kids. ‘Is so and so coming through, do they look like they’re in a good place today?”

Chitkara says the systems can process up to 4,000 people in one hour.

Some students tell WBTV the extra minutes are a concern when it comes to getting to class on time.

Kuykendall says she doesn’t want it to interfere with her class time but does understand the purpose and timing of the process.

“I’m looking forward to the feeling of being safe and trusting your peers and the safety of your school a bit more,” she said.

At the end of the day, Evolv says its goal doesn’t stop at safety, but peace of mind and getting classes back on track.

“The kids are going to school to learn, and to the extent, we can reduce anxiety and keep weapons out of schools that’s what’s most important,” Chitkara said.

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