Forsyth County school officials will add a new symbol to such traditional hallmarks of public education as the clang of class bells and the varsity sweater:

The metal detector.The Forsyth County-Winston-Salem school board voted unanimously Monday night to allow the use of metal detectors to find students smuggling guns or other weapons into middle and high schools.

The board authorized staff members to purchase one hand-held detector for each school. Officials estimate the total cost at $3,000 to $4,000.

Two Forsyth schools, Independence High School and Petree Middle, already use hand-held detectors to search students when they suspect a youth is armed. One school board candidate has suggested putting airport-style detectors at every schoolhouse door.

Administrators have written a proposal outlining when detectors may be used to search students, including when a principal is tipped by a reliable source that a certain student is armed.

The policy also envisions possible use of airport detectors to screen everyone attending such extracurricular events as football games.

``The board was concerned that this action not be interpreted to mean that there is a crisis in our schools,' said Sue Carson, Forsyth's director of public information. ``This is a preventive measure and they want to have (detectors) in place if they need them.'

Forsyth isn't North Carolina's first school system to use sophisticated detection technology. Every high school in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County system has a hand-held detector, about twice the size of a pack of cigarettes.

Officials of the Greensboro, Guilford County and High Point school systems said they don't use metal detectors and don't have any plans to start.

But some school officials think hand-held detectors might save school officials aggravation and lessen the students' embarrassment.

``If you're talking about an individual student's rights, a metal detector is a lot less intrusive than asking a student to empty his pockets or submit to a strip search,' said David Bryant, superintendent of Reidsville schools.

Bryant said Reidsville, like many other systems, has had infrequent incidents involving students with weapons. He said the problem is not severe enough to consider metal detectors.

Carson said Forsyth schools have had some gun incidents, but none involving a loaded weapon and none in which a student was threatened with a weapon at school.

The issue of metal detectors emerged in Forsyth as part of school board elections being decided today. One challenger, Betty Crouse, urged putting airport-type metal detectors in every school.

Some administrators say that could cause staffing and financing problems. Each of the costly detectors would have to be manned by several teachers or administrators, and some individual schools have as many as 10 buildings that would require detectors.

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