DETROIT -- School safety experts say Detroit Public Schools must overhaul its school security in the wake of a gunfight between trespassers at Central High School on Tuesday.
Experts, school officials and students agree the problem has no easy fix because fire safety codes prohibit the padlocking of doors, which contributed to hundreds of trespassing incidents last academic year, according to the statistics reported to the state.
The financially strapped district is struggling to secure aging structures like Central High, because they have dozens of doors by which students -- and intruders -- can enter.
Central High senior Tonisha Calloway, 18, said Wednesday that school district security should do a better job of checking students' identification badges. "It's a school, and I should feel safe," she said.
That the incident happened at a school with its own police ministation underscores the difficulty in securing schools.
Remodeled in 2006, Central High has new doors, said DPS Police Chief Charles Mitchell. The doors can't be opened from the outside, but students sometimes open them for friends or passers-by, Mitchell said.
Central High Principal Anthony Womack said Wednesday that security regularly checks students' identification and uses metal detectors. Visitors are stopped at the main entrance, but Womack acknowledged it's difficult to prevent trespassers from finding their way in, because the school has 26 doors and insufficient personnel to man each one.
Police and school officials are investigating how the 19-year-old brother of a Central student entered the school and allegedly engaged in a gunfight with a 17-year-old nonstudent in a second-floor hallway. The 19-year-old, who came to the school after receiving a call from his brother, had tried to enter earlier, but was turned away by security, police said. He was taken into police custody Tuesday and the 17-year-old later was arrested, police said.
Charges are expected, said Maria Miller, spokeswoman for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy's office.
The student who allegedly called his brother from his cell phone could face disciplinary action, Womack said.
State statistics show Central High reported 23 trespassers in 2007-08, up from 12 the year before. A person is considered a trespasser when 911 or law enforcement must be called.
Womack said the school is reviewing its security measures, but he called for help.
He said he has several partnerships with churches and other organizations whose members volunteer to walk the hallways. He called their help invaluable, but said the school would welcome more volunteers.
Kenneth Trump, president of Cleveland-based National School Safety and Security Services, a consulting firm, said Detroit schools should train staff and students on how to spot and report intruders.
Some other fixes: regularly monitor student IDs and institute anonymous tip lines for students to report fights that could escalate, said Derek R. Randel, a consultant who heads Wilmette, Ill.-based Stopping School Violence LLC.
Womack said he often receives tips from students and has created a culture in which students know they can talk to him.
"I've solved many cases before a tragic incident like yesterday occurs due in large part to students who have gotten to me," he said.
Detroit News Staff Writer Mike Wilkinson contributed.