Hopewell to address safety plans after guns are found in schools, parents react

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HOPEWELL, Va. (WRIC)– Hopewell City Public Schools is addressing crisis management, response and safety plans and communication protocols moving forward due to three serious incidents in schools.

Hopewell City Public Schools Superintendent Melody Hackney posted to the school system’s Facebook page this morning to respond to the recent increase in serious behaviors in three separate incidents.

The school system said it has had two recent incidents involving a gun being found in each of the secondary schools. On Nov. 3, Hopewell Police responded to reports that a student brought a gun to school at Hopewell High School. Officers removed the firearm and no one was harmed.

According to the Facebook post, on Tuesday, Nov. 9, HCPS addressed a social media threat to the middle school.

Many of our children are struggling as a result of the isolation and unique consequences of the pandemic. We are routinely having individual conversations with students and they are telling us of their challenges personally. And while we are working hard to respond specifically to their social and emotional needs and well-being, we continue to see a higher level of intensity in much of the misconduct some of our students are exhibiting.”

Melody Hackney, Hopewell City Public Schools Superintendent

Several parents told 8news, their main concern was a lack of communication.

“Following this we are now considering home school,” said Heaven LeighAnn Crews, who is a parent in HCPS.

One parent who spoke with 8News, said her son had been in the classroom with a student who had a gun. She said she was notified but had concerns that the surrounding community did not know. The mom said she had written a letter and is now happy to hear that further steps are being taken.

Nichole Hedrick Kirpaul has a daughter who attends Hopewell High School. Kirpaul said she found out about the threat at the school from a fellow parent on social media and it hadn’t come from the school yet.

“That was very disturbing. I did reach out to my daughter to make sure everything was okay and called the school,” Kirpaul said. “She was shocked because the students of course were not aware. This made an already nervous and anxious teenager even more anxious and worried. Even though I tried to reassure her everything was fine and the staff was doing everything to monitor the situation, it was still a very scary incident. I’ve never had any issues, thankfully with the school always keeping us parents in the loop. However, this was a very uneasy feeling.”

Kathy Williams Amos has a child in Hopewell City Public Schools as well. Amos said on the morning of Nov. 3, she received phone calls and text messages from students and parents about a gun being brought to the school. According to Amos, these incidents recently have caused a lot of stress and anger among parents and staff.

“I understand not wanting to cause more panic, but you have to understand that as a parent, getting these calls from our kids with no other details is absolutely unnerving and very upsetting,” Amos said.

Superintendent Hackney acknowledged that in at least one case, the school system made mistakes with “consistently and properly communicating these incidents in a timely fashion.” Hackney said moving forward all serious incidents at any school will be messaged via School Messenger no later than close of business on the day the incident occurs.

After the incidents, there were also concerns surrounding whether or not schools should be on lockdown.

“If the students don’t feel safe in the schools, then the learning experience isn’t going to happen,” said Mark Mackey, who has a grandson in HCPS.

According to Hopewell City Public Schools, Hopewell High School was not put on lockdown because there was not a need to do so. The school system said the student was quickly removed from the classroom and that putting the school on lockdown may have given the student a chance to realize school officials were aware he had the weapon.

The conversation surrounding a lack of metal detectors has also been circulating on social media. Hackney said she will present a plan to the School Board to better enhance the security of the buildings and also to increase prevention efforts to “deter students from making choices” that could impact the safety of the school community.

“We have appreciated your grace and understanding to this point, but feel we are at a pivotal point where additional reflection, oversight and prevention efforts are necessary,” Hackney said.

According to Hopewell City Public Schools, the plan will be published on Tuesday if it is approved and will be implemented beginning Nov. 29. Suggestions and recommendations should be emailed to mingram@hopewell.k12.va.us.

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