Second-year lease signed for DCSD weapons detection system at center of complaints

The DeKalb County Board of Education recently approved the lease of a weapons detection system that has been the subject of complaints from students and parents.

At a special-called meeting on Sept. 18, members of the DeKalb County Board of Education (BOE) voted unanimously to approve a second-year contract with EVOLV Technology. According to board members, the $1,586,832.55 price tag for the lease of the equipment will be covered by a state grant.

During a discussion before the vote to approve the lease, board member Whitney McGinniss asked Erick Hofstetter, chief operating officer for the DeKalb County School District (DCSD), if the grant money must be used on EVOLV technology to which he replied, “that is correct.”

The school district launched EVOLV Express, which, according to officials utilizes advanced artificial intelligence and sensor technology to distinguish potential weapons and components of weapons from personal items or harmless objects, at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year in all DCSD middle and high schools.

The EVOLV Express machines, which look similar to metal detectors, were installed inside school entrances. The machine is designed to beep and flash a red light, then sends a photo to a screen monitored by a school resource officer. On the screen, a red box indicates exactly where a weapon is located on a person’s body, or in a bag or backpack.

But earlier in September, after the start of the school year, DCSD officials said they would be taking “corrective measures to resolve egress issues promptly and effectively,” after social media complaints from students and parents that the weapon detection system was causing long lines at some schools.

In a memo about EVOLV, DCSD Public Safety Chief Brad Gober said personnel are working with school staff at affected schools to help them become more efficient with EVOLV. He added that being familiar with the system is essential to the technology’s “highly efficient” operation.

At the Sept. 18 meeting, board member Allyson Gevertz called the grant for EVOLV a “great opportunity.”

“I’m thankful that we have a year to make sure we get all of our data and ensure we make the right decision moving forward,” she said. “We don’t yet have all the data that we’re going to want to deliberate on before we decide whether it’s worth an investment of our general fund money. Hopefully it is. Hopefully the data will show that we have way fewer weapons, that kids are getting through the way (EVOLV) told us they were going to get through and we work out the logistics.”

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