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Hopewell superintendent addresses next steps after guns found in schools, social media threat

Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 6:16 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 11, 2021 at 6:52 PM EST
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HOPEWELL, Va. (WWBT) - Hopewell City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Melody Hackney is addressing families on three school-related incidents that happened over the last few weeks.

In a letter posted on the school district’s Facebook page, Hackney described the pivotal point the district is at where “additional reflection, oversight and prevention efforts are necessary.”

November 11, 2021 Good Morning, HCPS Staff, Families and Friends: The purpose of this correspondence is to respond to...

Posted by Hopewell City Public Schools on Thursday, November 11, 2021

Hackney went on to discuss two recent incidents where a student brought a gun to school.

Byron Davis, director of a balanced calendar and district communications for Hopewell City Public Schools, said a gun was found at Carter G. Woodson Middle School on Oct. 21.

Davis said a student that was aware of the situation made the report. He adds school administration and Hopewell Police responded and resolved the situation without incident.

Davis said the gun was not loaded and was confiscated. He also said the student was removed, and disciplinary action was taken.

Around two weeks later, school officials reported a similar situation at Hopewell High School.

Officials say a student was caught with a gun, which was later confiscated.

In her letter, Hackney also describes a recent incident involving a social media threat made at Carter G. Woodson Middle School on Tuesday.

Davis said a student made a post on social media, saying they intended to do harm at the middle school.

“That was reviewed, addressed, it was determined that they didn’t have the means to be able to follow through with anything like that,” Davis said in a phone interview on Thursday. “It was still something that was addressed, nonetheless, with additional disciplinary consequences.

In her letter, Dr. Hackney described the struggles students face with isolation and the unique consequences of the pandemic.

She adds they are routinely having conversations with students. However, Hackney said as they work to respond to their specific social and emotional needs, she adds, “we continue to see a higher level of intensity in much of the misconduct some of our students are exhibiting.”

Barry Clark’s nephew is a student at Hopewell City Public Schools and shared his nephew’s emotions.

“There’s a sense of nervousness,” he said. “Kids want to feel like when they go to school they are safe.”

Hackney also addresses relaying these incidents to families when they happen. She acknowledged, at least in one case, that they’ve made mistakes with consistently and properly communicating these situations to families when they happen.

With this, Hackney said they’d re-evaluated their crisis management, response practices, and communication protocols in these instances.

From this point forward, she adds all serious incidents will be reported through School Messenger and/or Remind no later than the end of the day when the reported incident happened.

“We care about the people and the students here in Hopewell, and we’re trying to make sure that everybody’s safe and well informed,” Davis said. “That’s an ongoing and very busy job just to make sure that everyone always knows what they need to know and that we’re always doing everything that we can do.”

On Monday night, Hackney said she also plans to present a plan to the school board to enhance the security of their buildings and work on prevention measures to help students.

“The types of things that have been discussed so far include things like doing a review and audit of our security practices in determining if there’s anything that we can do to improve the kind of specific routines,” Davis said. “There are pieces about looking at mental health and just making sure that we’re reaching people on a relational level, so that we can really be proactive rather than reactive.”

Clark is thankful school officials are bringing this to the table.

“As long as they’re proactive and they just don’t push this aside,” Clark said. “As long as they stay in front of this problem and hopefully this problem won’t come back and it’ll be a good outcome not only for the parents but the students as well.”

Dr. Hackney said they will publish this plan upon the school board’s approval on Tuesday for implementation when we return from the Thanksgiving holiday.

She also welcomes suggestions from the community, which can be emailed to mingram@hopewell.k12.va.us

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