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News 3 investigates school safety after shooting at Newport News high school

Generic: Newport News Police
Posted at 5:53 PM, Sep 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-21 18:21:41-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - As kids stayed home and learned virtually during the pandemic, school shootings were a problem that we didn’t have to deal with.

But with just a few weeks into the school year, a shooting at Heritage High School puts the issue back into the headlines.

News 3 met up with Newport News School Board Chair Douglas Brown.

He said, “We’re going to be reviewing all of our safety measures, protocols and see if there’s any room for improvement.”

He said the school district uses metal detectors for random searches and big events. He said they work with the police, get tips from students and work to prevent violence.

“When we do screenings for weapons and other paraphernalia and things of that nature, we generally do it to all the students so it’s not discriminatory in nature. That’s a practice that we’ve had in place for a number of years that makes the students in the community feels safer,” said Brown.

Some parents would like to see more metal detectors inside schools.

Browns says personally he attended a school with metal detectors and doesn’t like them.

“Our schools are schools, and they’re not prisons. They’re not the airport. Schools are a resource for the community. We do use metal detectors, but we’re not using them on an everyday basis for kids to make them feel like a prison yard,” said Brown.

Brown said the SRO officer was on scene when the shooting at Heritage High happened and said their presence helped execute the rapid response from law enforcement.

He says they’ve added additional mental health resources not only after the shooting, but also in recent years in the district.

Brown added he is glad the students injured are recovering and praised the quick actions of the students and staff. He said he is very glad no one was killed.

The Newport News School Board is meeting Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., and there is also a special meeting scheduled for Oct. 5.

News 3 reached out to school districts throughout Hampton Roads for their policies on metal detectors and other methods of enforcing security. You can find their responses below.

Portsmouth Public Schools

“We do have metal detectors in all of our secondary schools (middle and high schools). All high schools have four metal detectors. At Churchland Middle, there are five metal detectors; at Cradock Middle, there are three; and at Waters Middle, there are two (the allocation of metal detectors is not based on student enrollment, but rather the layout of the building and number of entry points) ….. the decision to have metal detectors in our schools predates our current administration. However, following the Columbine shooting in 1999, there was a documented rise in demand from the public for schools to have metal detectors and so they became part of many school division security operations.

We do also have School Resource Officers at all of our secondary schools thanks to our ongoing partnership with the Portsmouth Police Department and the Portsmouth Sheriff's Office. In addition, all schools, including elementary, have school-based school security officers, who are hired and trained by the school division.”

Virginia Beach City Public Schools

Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) said they have metal detectors in the middle and high schools have the handheld wands. They are used for large community events, such as football games. The district says they also have school resource officers (SROs)

Suffolk Public Schools

Suffolk Public Schools said metal detectors are currently only used after-school during some sporting events, i.e. basketball games, football games, etc. However, they said they do conduct scheduled wand drills with students. They said they currently have 8 SROs who have designated coverage over their assigned elementary, middle and high schools.

Hampton City Schools

"Hampton City Schools has walk-through metal detectors at our high schools that are used primarily at sporting events and special events. All of our schools (i.e., elementary, middle, high) have hand-held metal detectors. These are used for random searches. The number and location of walk-through metal detectors and hand-held detectors are not being disclosed as that may compromise our security.

In addition to metal detectors, please see the specific safety measures below that Hampton City Schools utilizes. Detailed information regarding these safety measures (e.g., number, location, frequency of use) are not being provided in order to protect the safety and security of our students and staff.

  • HCS uses Raptor Visitor Management Technologies to check in all guests
  • HCS Emergency Response Plans
  • Each school has an HCS Emergency Response/Safety Team
  • School Threat Assessment Teams
  • Emergency Crisis Codes
  • Evacuation and lockdown drills
  • Aiphone Access Control System (buzzer system at all front doors - audio and visual)
  • Camera system (internal and external)
  • Radio system at all of our schools
  • Panic button system
  • Police canine dog dedicated to HCS through the SRO program - to conduct random narcotic sweeps
  • Police canines through HPD - to conduct random firearm searches
  • School Security Officers (SSOs) - HCS employees
  • School Resource Officers (SROs) - Hampton Police Division - SROs are assigned on a full-time basis to all of our middle and high schools during the school year as well as support neighboring HCS elementary schools
  • School safety audits and school inspections
  • ALICE training provided to all staff at our schools (approximately 2,000 employees) during the 2019-2020 school year. New hires will participate in this training this school year.
  • Safe School Hotline and Tip Text Line 757-504-0921"

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