Remember how I mentioned that I really don’t like being told I can’t have data? A while back, I asked the NYC Department of Education which schools had metal detectors, and eventually was told that information wasn’t public. So I filed a freedom of information request, which was denied, on safety grounds.
The implication seemed to be that making public where the metal detectors are would jeopardize the safety of students. But this struck us as odd, because the metal detectors are big objects in the publicly-accessible lobbies that anyone can see when they walk in off the street.
What we really wanted to know was whether there was a disparate impact on communities of color, or students of color. And we couldn’t figure that out without knowing where the scanners are. So we called schools and asked. We used our calls to cross-check data collected by Inside Schools and the NYCLU.
We found that:
Almost two-thirds of high school students in the Bronx go through a metal detector; none go through one on Staten Island. Students in Brooklyn are a little more likely than average to go through scanning, and those in Manhattan and Queens are less likely.
Citywide, almost half of black high school students are scanned every day — compared to about 14 percent of white students. We also found that 43% of English Language Learner high school students are scanned every day.
We also wanted to know what impact the scanners were having on school safety. The NYPD did not respond to our requests for information on weapons confiscated in schools, but the department had previously told other news outlets that 712 weapons were found by metal detectors in schools during the 2013-2014 school year.
If every high school student currently at a scanning school was scanned each school day, that would amount to 15,964,020 scans over a school year — or one dangerous item found for about every 23,034 scans.