Newport News Virginia parents call for more security officers after shooting
Newport News VA January 19 2023
More than a hundred parents and students packed an auditorium in Newport News Tuesday night for the school board’s first meeting since police said a 6-year-old boy shot Abby Zwerner, first-grade teacher, on Jan. 6 at Richneck Elementary.
A number of students, teachers, parents and community members spoke to the board during the meeting, many of whom were outraged and concerned.
Many parents said they not only want to see metal detectors, but they want more security officers to make sure another shooting doesn’t happen.
“I don’t want to have a family dinner where I talk about where my kids will hide in their school,” one mother told board members. “I would rather be discussing poetry practice.”
Others shared personal experiences with the board.
“I send my kids to school, and find myself praying to God they will return home safely,” one parent said. “My 7-year-old daughter says she sits with her head down and cries because she wonders if she will be able to hug her mommy again.”
The school has been closed to students since the shooting. In a town hall with parents Thursday, Superintendent Dr. George Parker III said the school would be closed through this week, and he hoped to have an updated date on when students would return.
The Newport News Public School Board said it’s buying metal detectors to be put in all of its schools, including Richneck, as soon as possible. In a press conference Thursday evening, Board Chairperson Lisa Surles-Law announced funding has been obtained for 90 state-of-the-art metal detectors. During the press conference, Surles-Law said walkthrough metal detectors will be in place for all students, faculty, and staff for Richneck upon school reopening.
But some people told the board metal detectors aren’t necessarily the solution.
“Instead of getting more metal detectors, why don’t we hire more school safety officers,” one person said.
Another parent said, “I recommend increasing the number of school security officers in elementary schools.”
One parent called on the board to make sure the 6-year-old involved in the Richneck incident never returns to school.
Other parents urged for a change of leadership as this is the third school shooting in Newport News in the last year and a half.
“To this board,” one person said, “enough is enough. What will it take? I pray it’s not a fourth shooting because that blood will be on your hands.”
One parent called for the removal of all school board members.
The board said there are three phases to the recovery process following a tragic event. Currently, the first phase is underway, the rescue phase. It can last one to four weeks.
The school board said it’s still working on a return plan for students to enter the building. In the meantime, there’s a helping available for families and students who may be struggling as they process the shooting. That number is 757-788-0635.