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Manual introduces new Evolv weapons detectors into daily schedule

Grace Fridy
Manual students enter school on Tuesday through the main entrance in order to go through weapons detectors.

This story is part of continuing coverage. For Manual RedEye’s prior investigation into the efficacy of Evolv weapon detectors, see this story.

Manual’s controversial Evolv weapon detectors were activated on Tuesday, causing delays to the school day. While the detectors have been installed inside Manual since mid-December, they only went live this week, leading to significant protocol changes for students.

Students entering the courtyard entrance after 7 a.m. joined a line of staff and students that wrapped around the VA annex entrance prior to reaching the weapon detectors. Staff announced the acronym ‘BLUE’‒ Binders, Laptops, Umbrellas, Eyeglass cases‒ representing items known to trigger false alarms with the Evolv system. Students and staff were expected to remove these items and any other metal objects from their bags while in line, passing them around the detectors as they walked through. Despite these proactive policies, many students and staff were still flagged as they walked through the detectors and were subject to administrator searches.

“I had a bike lock in my bag that set it off,” said Blake Sinclair (12, J+C). “I just kinda forgot it was in there. It didn’t set it off the first time though, surprisingly. I go to YPAS for Study Skills, and on the way back, the bike lock set off the detectors and it was a whole ordeal.”

“It was because of an umbrella,” said Manual teacher Robin Krause (Social Studies) after she was flagged and searched. “I’m going to put my umbrella on the outside from now on, so that I can hand it around.”

“So, I was flagged by my lunchbox, it was a metal lunchbox,” said teacher Jordan Elliott (Social Studies).

Even beyond the items that administrators warned about, many new items were found to repeatedly trigger the weapon detectors, including calculators, spiral notebooks, lip gloss and body spray.

“Every MST student is going to get flagged coming in,” said an anonymous student after their friend group of MST students was searched due to their graphing calculators.

Outside of Entrance 2, where bus riders were allowed to enter, the weapon detector line stretched past Noe Middle School. Even after 7:40, students remained in line outside the school.

The line of students waiting to enter Manual on Tuesday morning wrapped around Noe Middle School. (Grace Fridy)

“I got here at 7:32, and it’s almost eight o’clock now. I’ve been out in this line for thirty minutes… I’m so cold, I feel like I’m going to get frostbite,” said Thomas Galla (10, MST). “I can’t be expected to wait in line for half an hour every single day when it’s 30 degrees out.”

Manual administration made successful efforts to pivot and expedite the process. At 7:50, administrators allowed students to enter through the front entrance door, which is also outfitted with Evolv detectors. This halved the line for Entrance 2 and significantly reduced the time it took for all of the students to enter the building. 

“While there were backups as students learned the expectations of what to remove, we were able to make real time adjustments to compensate for the issue,” said principal Michael Newman in a statement to Manual RedEye. “This included additional staff responding to backed up search lines, shifting entry lines to alleviate overcrowding, and district staff arrived today to help students into the building and remind them of what must be removed before walking through the Evolv system.”

Just after 8:10, Newman gave the morning announcements to start the school day, which operated on an adjusted schedule to accommodate the delays.

“Students, please understand: I appreciate you, I appreciate your patience,” said Newman during the announcement. “Staff, I also want to say I appreciate you and your patience this morning.”

“I don’t really understand why they’re searching teachers anyway, to be honest,” said Ms. Krause. “Why are they worried about us? I feel like there should be more trust there.”

Caleb Masterson

The increased manpower requirement of manning the Evolv detectors has led to Manual staff and administrators clustering in fewer spots in the morning. In addition, some teachers are now expected to take on additional duties to ensure students comply with the detector protocol. Newman believes that this rearrangement of personnel will not diminish the presence of staff and security elsewhere in the school.

“I am very thankful for the staff who have agreed to work our Evolv stations,” said Newman in his statement to RedEye. “They are compensated for their extra service time.  We have worked diligently to minimize any disruption to safety elsewhere in the building by reassigning responsibilities to administrative staff. In our adjusted model, the student parking lot is still being covered as it always has been.”

Students file through the main entrance where staff are expected to go through the new detectors. (Grace Fridy)

Ultimately, the weapon detectors’ debut proved what Manual RedEye has already published in its prior investigation of Evolv systems: that Evolv often detects harmless items as weapons, with the potential to lead to entry backups. The detectors’ debut also lends weight to the claim that Evolv engaged in false advertising, since Manual’s experience clearly did not line up with Evolv’s marketing claims of moving “quickly through security checkpoints” at “the pace of life”.  Evolv’s inconsistency was also demonstrated during teacher testing of the Evolv system on Monday afternoon. During that teacher testing period, one teacher passed through an Evolv detector with a butter knife in their bag and another passed through with a Swiss Army knife. Neither were flagged. 

Many students held an ambivalent or negative response to the detectors’ rollout. Some students pointed out that if they take classes at UofL and return during the school day, they now have to walk around the school and enter through the main office so that they can be scanned. 

“I have my UofL class in the planetarium, which is nice because it’s not a super far walk,” said Owen Hartmann (12, MST), describing his experience re-entering Manual. “But I had to go through 2nd Street to get back to the main entrance… which is weird because we’re usually allowed to enter through Entrance 22.”

“In my opinion… it’s just a big inconvenience,” said Piper Fulton (9, HSU).

“These metal detectors don’t work. If you’re going to implement something like this, at least do it right,” said Annika Gibson (12, MST), addressing JCPS officials who chose to purchase Evolv technology. “Make it more than security theatre.”

In addition to showing flexibility during morning backups, the administration is already working to make the process more convenient for students.

The long line of bus riders and students coming from YPAS on Tuesday morning. (Caleb Masterson)

“Students, I know that a number of you have three-ring metal binders. I have just placed an order for a little over 2000 plastic three-ring binders, which means that I’ll be able to afford every student at least one,” said Newman in an afternoon announcement on Tuesday. “I’m going to do my best to provide you with something you don’t have to take out of your backpack.”

Despite the inconsistency and a less-than-positive student response, much of Manual’s staff remains optimistic about the potential benefits of the detectors and the ability for the process to be refined over time. 

The ultimate goal is to ensure weapons are not in buildings,” said Newman in his statement to RedEye. “I believe the Evolv system will deter students and visitors from bringing weapons into the building out of concern of being caught.  However, at the security intensity JCPS’ Evolv machines are set to, I feel confident they will be effective in alerting staff if a weapon is brought into the building.”

“I think that [the detectors] will only improve the safety here,” said Mr. Elliott. “Once kids get to know what can go through the detectors and what can’t, then things will run a lot smoother.”

About the Contributors
Caleb Masterson, Staffer
Caleb Masterson is a staffer for Manual RedEye. He enjoys videography, creative writing, and voicing his opinions about local and national news. He is passionate about history and science, and in his free time, you can find him reading, retro gaming, or adding to his coin collection. You can contact him at [email protected].
Grace Fridy, Opinion Editor
Grace Fridy is the Opinion Editor for Manual RedEye this year. She enjoys reading, writing, discussing, debating, bowling, baking and many other activities there isn't room for. You can contact her at [email protected].
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