POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — In an effort to deter and prevent the presence of weapons on campus, middle and high school students in Polk County can expect random searches when school returns Aug. 10.

“In response to different types of violent acts that continue to occur across our nation, again, I think it is our responsibility to do so,” said Frederick Heid, school superintendent.

According to the school district, there were six firearms found on school campuses last year in addition to 214 other “dangerous objects.” 

School administrators will use a metal detector wand for screening. Bags and purses can also be searched.

“Schools will vary the screening location on campus, the time when the screening takes place and the frequency of a screening. For instance, a school might select every fifth student who enters the main building upon arrival in the morning,” reads an excerpt from the district’s Back to School guide.

“It has to be truly randomized and the school has to have a plan in place and all of that’s been addressed through their training,” said Heid. “We are well within our rights to ensure that our campuses are safe and secure. We want to eliminate the possibility of any weapon coming on campus.”

Polk Education Association president Stephanie Yocum says she will watch to see how it affects teachers and whether biases are a factor.

“It’s a necessary move. We’re going to have to monitor how that’s implemented to see what’s really going on with that,” said Yocum.

There will also be stricter penalties for making threats of any kind, including a mandatory five-day suspension.

“Times have changed since we grew up and that playground comment is no longer something that we just let fly or pass without there being a consequence,” said Heid.

With less than a week before the first day of school, there are 200 instructional staff vacancies in Polk County.

Heid says they are “well-positioned” due to long-term substitute teachers.

Yocum calls it, not a shortage, but an “exodus.”

“We have 200 instructional staff that aren’t filled, which puts burdens on schools and we kind of see them disproportionately at schools with our highest need,” said Yocum.

According to Heid, the school district has 50 bus driver openings but dozens of drivers are currently in the training process.

He credits pay increases for the ability to hire more drivers.