Time For a Change- Metal Detectors Implemented at Newport News Schools

It’s been a rough year for Newport News Public Schools.

Even if you don’t live in Newport News, I think you all know of the events I’m referring to which have continuously put Newport News in the headlines and have now led to the implementation of mandatory metal detector checks before coming into the school buildings.

The downward spiral which has led us to be in the sad place we are now started last September, 2021, when a student shot and injured two other students at Heritage High School. This event left students and families in Newport News shocked and scared, yet the superintendent at the time, Dr. George Parker, didn’t seem to be bothered. To be fair, Dr. Parker really had no incentive to want to meaningfully address the shooting, as it was his policies that allowed the student, who was a felon, to even be readmitted to a Newport News Public School. Formerly, before Dr. Parker took over as Superintendent, rules had been in place to bar students who were felons from coming to Newport News Public Schools.

Following the Heritage shooting, students and staff were treated to a relatively calm October and November. Of course a few bomb and shooting threats were peppered in during these months, but to students and staff, the threats were considered commonplace and barely even talked about. On December 14th however, just mere months after a school shooting rocked Newport News, a student was shot and killed in the Menchville parking lot after a basketball game. Once again, this shooting was met with no real change, as students, staff, and most unfortunately, Dr. Parker, just accepted the second shooting in a little less than four months as the new normal.

A year after the shooting at Menchville came the most shocking and sickening shooting in Newport News Public Schools, as a 6-year-old student at Richneck Elementary School shot his teacher on January 6th, 2023. With this shooting came mass public uproar, as families, staff, and most notably, the national media, could no longer ignore the cycle of gun violence terrorizing Newport News schools. People also could no longer ignore the gaffs of Dr. Parker, as this shooting saw him get his most criticism yet. Once again, families and staff blamed the shooting on Dr. Parker and his policies, as he had put a rule in place stating that minors could not be pat-down- a policy that families argued allowed the shooting to happen as the boy had the gun in his pocket.

Because of the mass criticism and spotlight that had been placed on Newport News and Dr. Parker, the school board decided that it was time for a change. Dr. Parker was voted out as the superintendent with a 5-1 vote, and Dr. Michele Mitchell was chosen to fill in as the interim superintendent. Not too long into her tenure, Newport News found itself in the headlines again, as on February 22nd, 2023, a student brought a gun into Woodside High School.

Immediately after the school day on February 22nd, a mandatory meeting was held to discuss the implementation of metal detectors at the school entrances. The idea of using metal detectors had been discussed for months, but after the scare at Woodside the School Board finally decided it was time for the metal detectors, which had been kept in storage for months, to be used on a daily basis.

With the decision to use metal detectors in schools comes the sad admittance that schools can longer be made and kept safe by the workers who were hired to do so. Unlike the masks that were used at the beginning of last year, the use of metal detectors feels like something that will stick around. It’s as sad as it is clear- the staff and school board have realized that the safety of the students is in jeopardy, and they’re now grasping at straws to find ways to fix that.