HOPEWELL, Va. (WRIC) — After guns were found in Hopewell City Public Schools (HCPS) twice and a social media threat was made to Carter G. Woodson Middle School, division leaders have proposed new security enhancements.

While the school division had previously discussed and is in the process of installing electronic sensors and cameras on all external doors in every school, according to a presentation given to the School Board at its Monday meeting, several new preventative measures were discussed, to avoid additional instances such as that of Oct. 21, Nov. 3 and Nov. 9.

On Oct. 21, a student brought an unloaded gun to school at Carter G. Woodson Middle School. According to a spokesperson for the division, a student who was aware of the situation made the report, and school administration along with Hopewell Police responded and resolved the situation without incident. The gun was confiscated, the student was removed, and disciplinary action was taken.

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.

“HCPS will learn from the experiences of October 21, November 3 and November 9, 2021, by engaging our greater school community in conversations to both evaluate our present school safety practices, as well as identify and deploy additional strategies to ensure the ongoing safety and well-being of all our students and employees,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Melody Hackney said in a presentation to the School Board Monday night.

The presentation also included a quote from Mo Canady, President of the National Association of School Resource Officers, referencing unprecedented challenges faced in school divisions across the country as a result of the coronavirus pandemic: “Anyone who didn’t think there would be an increase in violence and student mental health issues coming into this school year, had their heads in the sand somewhere.”

The proposed new security enhancements detailed at Monday’s School Board meeting are as follows:

  • Potential expansion and earlier referral to alternative education program
  • Review of current lockdown procedures
  • Student and teacher focus groups for voice and perspective
  • Advocacy to return 2nd School Resource Officer to Hopewell High School
  • Personalization and focused curriculum for student advisories
  • Review and enhance threat assessment practices
  • Family engagement staff focus expansion
  • Parent communication with every state reported weapon incident
  • Community Town Hall Meeting
  • Safety focused empathy interviews with students and staff
  • Expanded mentoring opportunities for identified students
  • Metal detectors at arrival at both schools
  • Additional signage on doors
  • Additional staff/volunteer coverage during class change and lunch
  • Increased police/sheriff offices patrol partnerships
  • Consistent and expanded protocols for student support officers
  • Refreshers of current safety trainings for staff
  • Implement  “Text a Tip” Anonymous Crime Solvers’ notification, Reward System
  • Evaluation of current Social/Emotional programming 

“Many of our children are struggling as a result of the isolation and unique consequences of the pandemic,” Hackney wrote in a Facebook post for the school community on Thursday. “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.”

Hackney said that while the number of incidents of student misconduct is less in the first 76 days of the academic year than it has been in years past, the intensity is greater. This includes incidents of weapons being brought to school.

The superintendent also said that, with the School Board’s approval, the above plans will be implemented starting the Tuesday after the Thanksgiving holiday.

“We will engage our students in the discussion of our planning efforts next week to ensure they understand the new expectations of them before implementation,” Hackney wrote. “And while it is our hope that these strategies and prevention efforts will not be necessary long term, for the time being, we will be diligent in our efforts to keep our primary agenda focused on the health and safety of all of our HCPS family.”

The school division is expected to release additional information on its security prevention measures on Tuesday.