NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Newport News Public Schools has revealed new information in the shooting of a teacher at Richneck Elementary School.
During a virtual Town Hall with Richneck parents on Thursday, officials say that at least one administrator knew that the six-year-old student may have had a weapon on him hours before the shooting happened.
Thursday’s Town Hall was for Richneck parents only but a parent shared their access link with 10 On Your Side.
Supt. Dr. George Parker revealed that there was a report that the boy might have had a weapon on him 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.
“At least one administrator was notified of a possible weapon,” said Dr. Parker.
The Newport News School Board revealed in a Thursday news conference that administrative changes would be taking place at Richneck and would be communicated to parents in the Town Hall. During the Town Hall, Dr. Parker would not say what those administrative changes are but said the district is reviewing the timeline that an administrator was notified about a possible weapon.
The superintendent told parents that he’s been in contact with Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, for advice on how to proceed. Last May, 19 children and two adults were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary.
“We’ve been in contact with Uvalde in Texas who have been very gracious in communicating with us,” Dr. Parker stated.
After three school shootings in three years, Newport News Public Schools is changing the way the district handles security. Dr. Parker told parents he’s considering requiring clear plastic backpacks for Richneck students that would be purchased by the district.
Richneck Elementary is also in the process of adding a separation wall and doors to the 2nd-grade hallway and will install permanent metal detectors. Dr. Parker also shared plans to reconstruct the school’s front entrance creating a working buzzer system and double entranceway so staff can see who is trying to enter the building.
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 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, a big step in security measures that Dr. Parker hinted at during Monday’s joint news conference with police and city leaders regarding Richneck.
Dr. Parker addressed the public saying the shooting at Richneck was 100% preventable and he would be re-evaluating his stance on fixed metal detection. After the shooting at Heritage High School in 2021, Dr. Parker told 10 On Your Side he did not support fixed metal detectors because he did not want school to feel like a prison for students when it should be a place of learning.
Parent Tom Aman 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 10 On Your Side.
In the meantime, Dr. 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,” Dr. Parker said.