Newport News School Board to hold special meeting in October on security after Heritage High shooting

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The Newport News School Board will hold a special meeting in October to discuss security measures after two students were shot at Heritage High School.

Two 17-year-old students were shot on Monday while on campus. A boy was shot in the side of the face, and a girl was shot in the leg. Newport News Police Department Chief Steve Drew said the injuries are non-life-threatening.

The person accused in the shooting is also a 15-year-old Heritage High School student. He was arrested off campus and police retrieved a gun. Police haven’t released the motivation behind the shooting, but Drew confirmed that the victims knew the suspect and the crime wasn’t random.

Classes in the building, which also include sixth and seventh graders from Huntington Middle School, will remain virtual until the school administration has plans in place to return to in-person learning “comfortably,” Dr. George Parker III, superintendent of Newport News Public Schools, said during a school board meeting on Tuesday.

Parker said he has spoken to the families of the student victims and they are recovering. But he told board members that police still haven’t revealed all the details of what happened to him yet.

“Before you can fix anything. You have to know what’s broken,” Parker said.

He said at this point, he doesn’t know how the gun entered school grounds, if all entrances were secure, etc.

Newport News School Board Chairman Douglas Brown said the board’s special meeting will be held on Oct. 5 to discuss the Heritage High School shooting and security at all Newport News schools. Brown said school board members will “take a general and broad view of all of our schools to see what we can do to improve school security.”

Brown said that the school board is open to revisions to its security measures, including the increased use of metal detectors.

Metal detectors are not used regularly at Newport News schools, although the division owns the devices. Metal detectors are primarily used during state-mandated drills or when requested by police, Brown said.

Currently, Newport News schools conduct random searches. All students are subject to random searches to ensure, in part, that they are not being conducted discriminatorily.

“The message to the community is that all security measures are utilized. They’re utilized right now on a random basis,” Brown said.

School staff also conduct parking lot searches and, in some cases, mandatory searches. A mandatory search will happen, for example, when a student leaves campus and wants to return on the same day.

Newport News schools are also equipped with security guards and school resource officers:

  • Six security officers and a NNPD school resource officer at every high school
  • Three security officers and a NNPD school resource officer at every middle school
  • Elementary schools are paired between assigned officers

NNPS Chief of Staff Rashard Wright also highlighted the use of services such as Gaggle and GoGuardian which help monitor students’ internet usage on school devices. Wright said the district security team can be alerted if a student has potentially harmful searches. The district also subscribes to Safe Schools which allows people to anonymously submit school threats.

Parker told board members he hopes to have further suggestions on what added security measures may be needed after holding an after-action meeting with law enforcement, school staff, and security teams.

“There will be lessons learned in an emergency chaotic situation and we always want to do the best job we can,” Parker said. “So everything is a teachable moment.” 

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