Metal detectors will be installed in every school in the Virginia city where a 6-year-old boy shot and wounded his elementary teacher last week, school officials announced Thursday.
The Newport News School Board announced Thursday that the board was given the approval to purchase 90 walk-through metal detectors which will be placed in every school across the district, said board chair Lisa Surles-Law.
“The time is now to put metal detectors in all of our schools,” Surles-Law said during a news conference Thursday.
District Superintendent George Parker previously said metal detectors and random searches were already being used in high schools and middle schools but not at elementary schools. The 90 metal detectors were purchased after the school district was able to obtain and repurpose funds from the school budget.
The first metal detectors will be installed at Richneck Elementary School, where first-grade teacher Abigail Zwerner was shot, upon its reopening. All students, faculty, and staff will have to walk through the detectors, Surles-Law said.
‘NOT AN ACCIDENTAL SHOOTING’:Virginia teacher injured after being shot in classroom by 6-year-old student, officials say
In addition to “state-of-the-art detectors,” the district will bolster protocols on handling school violence, including implementing a safety stand down and reviewing student conduct and discipline records, Surles-Law added.
The announcement follows the Jan. 6 shooting of Zwerner, where a 6-year-old student fired one round at Zwerner while she was teaching her class. Zwerner, who has been hailed as a hero, was able to usher her students out of the classroom after she was shot.
The bullet had struck through Zwerner’s hand and chest but the 25-year-old has since improved and is listed in stable condition, according to authorities.
Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew called the shooting “intentional” and said the child used a gun purchased legally by his mother.
Leaving a loaded, unsecured gun in a manner that endangers the life or limb of children under 14 is a violation and is a misdemeanor crime punishable with a maximum one-year prison sentence and $2,500 fine, according to a Virginia law.
Officials have yet to charge anyone in connection with the incident and the child is currently being held at a medical facility following an emergency custody order.
‘MS. ZWERNER SAVED LIVES’: 6-year-old who shot Virginia teacher used gun legally purchased by his mother, police say
Shooting fallout: Push for school safety
The Newport News School Board’s decision Thursday joins a national debate over school violence and how gun violence can be prevented in school populations.
Since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, there has been a push for school designs with security in place. But many of America’s schools have been unable to change and can’t afford advanced features or upgrades.
The use of metal detectors in schools, especially in elementary schools, is still rare, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Less than 2% of public elementary schools performed random metal detector checks on students during the 2019-20 school year, according to the center. It was 10% for middle schools and 14.8% for high schools.
“Schools are already struggling with adequate resources — finding bus drivers, finding enough teachers,” David Riedman, founder of a database that tracks U.S. school shootings, told The Associated Press. “To have comprehensive school security with 100% weapons detection essentially requires a TSA-style agency that would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to implement across the country. And that’s not viable.”
Contributing: Kayla Jimenez and Alia Wong, USA TODAY; The Associated Press