During a virtual town hall with Richneck parents on Thursday, officials said at least one administrator knew that the student may have had a weapon on him hours before the shooting happened.
“At least one administrator was notified of a possible weapon,” said Supt. Dr. George Parker.
Thursday’s town hall was for Richneck parents only, though one shared their access link with Nexstar’s WAVY.
Parker revealed that there had been a report that the boy may have had a weapon when he got to school Friday morning. His backpack was searched, but nothing was found.
Two and a half hours later, police were storming the school after that boy shot his first-grade teacher.
The Newport News School Board revealed earlier at a Thursday news conference that administrative changes will be taking place at Richneck, and would be communicated to parents in the town hall. But during the town hall event, Dr. Parker would not say what those administrative changes were.
Parker said the district is currently reviewing the timeline that the administrator was notified about a possible weapon.
The superintendent told parents that he’s also been in contact with Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas — where 19 children and two adults were killed in a shooting in May 2022 — for advice on how to proceed.
“We’ve been in contact with Uvalde in Texas who have been very gracious in communicating with us,” Parker stated.
After three school shootings in three years, Newport News Public Schools is changing the way the district handles security, officials have recently indicated.
Richneck Elementary is currently in the process of adding a separation wall and doors to the 2nd-grade hallway, and will install permanent metal detectors, according to Parker, who also shared plans to reconstruct the school’s front entrance, creating a working buzzer system and double entranceways so staff can see who is trying to enter the building.
Parker told parents he’s also considering requiring clear plastic backpacks for Richneck students that would be purchased by the district.
In a news conference hours earlier, school board chair Lisa Surles-Law announced the district’s plan to add permanent metal detectors in all division schools. Funding was just secured on Wednesday by the school board for 90 such state-of-the-art devices. The detectors can identify weapons without slowing down morning arrivals.
“So we just got our approval to purchase them yesterday. We are in the process of making those orders. We have requested that we get the ones for Richneck immediately,” Surles-Law stated.
The move is a big step in security measures that Parker hinted at during Monday’s joint news conference with police and city leaders regarding Richneck.
Parker had publicly said the shooting at Richneck was 100% preventable and he would be re-evaluating his stance on fixed metal detection. Parker, after a 2021 shooting at an area high school, had previously told WAVY that he did not support fixed metal detectors because he did not want schools to feel like prisons for students, but rather places of learning.
Tom Aman, a local parent, praised the district’s decision to purchase metal detectors.
“Metal detectors in every school and every single entry-way is a step. Empowering our teachers to take back their classrooms and get rid of disruptive students is a start. But once again, it comes back to the culture. If the teachers don’t feel like they’re being heard and if the teachers and the students don’t feel safe, they can’t teach and they can’t learn,” Aman told WAVY.
In the meantime, Parker told Richneck parents the district is still working on when students can go back to class.
“We want to make sure that we have measures in place that will allow our faculty and our students and you our parents to feel confident that your student is entering a safe building on a daily basis,” Parker said.