Depsite Bomb Threats, Park Cities Schools Reject Metal Detectors as Too "Urban"

We all know by now that the high school in the affluent enclave communities of Highland Park and University Park is under siege from bomb and weapons threats. The FBI has joined local police in a so-far fruitless effort to catch whoever is behind a series of written bomb threats, text message threats and two incidents in the last month involving live ammunition.

But here's what few people know. Even after the local police chief told school officials that metal detectors were the best way to protect children from smuggled guns and bombs, the school district opted not to install them. They now offer inconvenience and expense as arguments against metal detectors, both a little hard to believe in one of the nation's most affluent school districts.

But they do mention another reason that is both completely believable and barely comprehensible. They say metal detectors are too "urban." What they really mean, though they don't use the word, is that metal detectors are too ghetto. And, yes, metal detectors are ghetto, no question. But does that mean they don't belong in Highland Park High School?

Jared Boggess

Helen Williams, director of communications for the district, told me last week: "When you've got a situation in an urban district where you're dealing with gangs and things that come with that, it probably is a more major consideration."

She said metal detectors are appropriate to a different kind of threat than what Highland Park High School is facing. "We've not had a history of students bringing guns on campus, and that is the primary reason for having metal detectors. That has not historically been a problem [here]."

Well, not until a month ago, when a student found a cache of 39 live bullets in a bathroom. Last week another student found two bullets in her backpack. This is in a context of cascading explicit threats in both written notes and text messages to students.

After the private organization, Crime Stoppers, began publicizing an offer of reward money, someone sent the organization a note warning that the campaign of terror at the school was "not a hoax" and was "building."

So we have someone with easy access to the school. He, she or they have produced manuscript notes that the FBI labs have been unable to tie to anyone. Whoever is behind this has been able to send text message threats to students that the FBI has been unable to trace. The threat delivered to Crime Stoppers would seem to illustrate both defiance and a taste for drama. And the most serious threats, the bullets, are an explicit demonstration of an ability to bring weaponry into the school.

Requiring everyone entering and leaving the building to pass through metal detectors, a commonplace in Dallas schools, would provide Highland Park schools with their only shot at spotting guns, ammo or most bombs before they enter a school. But Williams told me the "cultural factor" was a deal-killer.

"We really pride ourselves on trusting our students and having an environment where the school is a community center," she said. "There is a psychological part of having people go through metal detectors. I am sure that when you visit DISD schools, as when I have, that that's just part of the routine there."

Yes. So how does that mean they can't become routine in the Park Cities? Last week Pamela Kripke, mother of a Highland Park High School student and a freelance writer, wrote a piece for the Huffington Post saying University Park Police Chief Gary Adams had told her that metal detectors were an absolute necessity at the school.

Kripke said in the HuffPo piece that Adams had told her he could not guarantee the safety of students without metal detectors. She said he told her he was trying to borrow some for the district until it could arrange to buy its own.

I spoke to Adams several days after Kripke's piece appeared causing consternation among those residents and officials who saw it. He was eager to convey that he had not issued some edict to the school district that the district had defied. But he was forthright about what he did say to Kripke.

"There was a discussion in a previous meeting before I talked to that other reporter [Kripke]," Adams said. "She asked me about metal detectors and if I thought they needed them. I said at this point in time after we found .22 bullets, I thought we did."

Adams confirmed Kripke's account in terms of his willingness to search for loaners. He said he told school Superintendent Dawson Orr he "would do a little research and see if I could determine where they could find supportable magnetometers."

Adams told me the school system decided the metal detectors were not logistically feasible and could not be installed "in time." In time for what he did not say. He added, "We use them for court security and our jail."

So somehow it has been logistically and financially feasible for University Park to install metal detectors for the protection of court personnel, public visitors to the courts and everybody at the jail but not for students, staff and public visitors to the high school where the threats are directed.

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I consider myself a fairly moderate individual, but Jim, you're missing the bigger picture.  It's not about being an Urban/Inner city school.  It's about someone wanting to disrupt education in one way or annother.  Go back to spring of 1999 to Allen and you'll see an entire school year end cancelled because of repeated bomb threats.  The next year every single campus in the district had metal detectors and at least one security officer at the primary entrance door.  At elementary schools this was one and 1. At others (like the high school) there were close to 15 detectors that every student had to pass through on the way into the building with full contents search (Bookbags, Musical Instrument cases, Gym Bags, etc).  All of this extra process had one significant benefit.  Absolutely zero bomb threats were called in and many potential cases for illegal items to be brought in were curbed.   Everyone makes the blatant assumption that it can't be their own "precious snowflake" but in order for these tragic events to happen, there has to be at least one yellow snowball that ruins it for everyone.

--A graduate of Allen Schools affected by the "Year with no end"  


There have been two shooting incidents outside the front doors of HPHS in the past  - one was hushed up because of the kid's parents and another was blamed on "a crazy lady".  In December, machetes were found hidden on campus.


Your third to last paragraph is one of the most powerful I have ever read. 

tim_lebsack 2 Like

re: "One argument against metal detectors is that they help create exactly the kind of penal lock-down culture that people move to the Park Cities to escape."

Government schooling IS a penal lock-down. 


NoOneReadsTheEvidenc 1 Like

Helen Williams is a piece of work. She assumes it is a student, but as you look at this case it could very well be a parent volunteer, or an unhappy employee.....or a cop. She just doesn't know who it is, and perhaps if Ms. Helen spent her time focused on finding a solution versus attacking a mother with a child in the school who also happens to be a nationally renowned writer who dared to speak up, something could be done about this abysmal situation.

Has anyone in LE  (that's law enforcement) subpoened the spoof app providers? Maybe Helen could explain why that theory makes sense--you know, since she has no issues trashing a reporter who has already been confirmed as having been accurate. Here's another idea--forensics could tell us if they were able to lift any prints from the notes that exclude those who turned in the notes--how about fingerprinting all employees and students and matching those prints to the notes?

rosie-o 3 Like

That's the thing the people involved in these mass shootings are not ghetto gangster kids, it's the white kid next door. These people are too worried about appearances, who cares!!??  These are your children!!!! Wake up people!!