Fans attending the Decatur-Austin high school basketball games tonight must pass through metal detectors before entering the Austin High gymnasium.

Dwight Satterfield, Decatur City Schools' deputy superintendent of school safety and student services, said at least four metal detectors will be in place as a pilot program for the city schools. He said the metal detectors also will be used Jan. 3 when Austin plays at Decatur.

“These metal detectors are not there in conjunction with any disciplinary action or threat,” he said. “Some other school systems have this safety procedure in place and we’ve been thinking about implementing it. We’re going to look at the pros and cons of the system, and we want an uneventful evening.”

Satterfield said people trying to enter with an illegal item will be given the opportunity to return it to their vehicle. He said state law prohibits weapons on school campuses and there are signs posted at the city schools.

“Staff members of the Decatur City School system will be manning the machines, but law enforcement will be visible in the building and available if they are needed,” he said.

He said the machines are used across the nation to enter athletic events including NFL and SEC games, and that they also are used at high school sporting events in nearby school systems such as Huntsville and Madison City.

Officials are seeking assistance from those attending the games to avoid delays, according to a written statement from Decatur City Schools.

“We are also asking that attendees use clear bags or bags/purses to assist us with security at these events. If you bring in larger bags or purses, additional screening procedures will be required, thus slowing entrance into the game. Therefore, we are asking that attendees consider leaving these items at home or in your car if you plan to attend the games on these dates,” according to the statement.

DCS said attendees will not be required to remove jewelry, belt buckles, watches and similar items.

“We’re hoping for a positive endeavor." Satterfield said.

The school system is using the machines at no cost tonight and will be renting the machines Jan 3.

The Decatur-Austin varsity girls game begins at 6 tonight with the varsity boys contest to follow at about 7:30. Doors open at 4 p.m. Admission is $7.

mike.wetzel@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2442. Twitter @DD_Wetzel.

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