Hopewell unveils new security measures for schools

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 11:24 PM EST
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HOPEWELL, Va. (WWBT) - New safety measures will soon be in place in Hopewell’s schools. The decision came at a school board meeting Monday, where leaders said now is the time to make changes, following three acts of violence in as many weeks, including students bringing guns onto school grounds.

Leaders decided there should be more of a police presence at schools. They want to reinstate an officer at Woodson Middle School after leaving due to a police shortage. School leaders say they’d love to see more than the two student resource officers at Hopewell High.

There were two weapons on Hopewell school grounds in the first few months of the school year. Back in 2019, that’s the same number of weapons brought to schools the entire year.

“If you look at incidents of weapons being brought into schools, they are greater in this 76 days than they were over the last couple of years, and we’re only 76 days into the school year,” Superintendent Dr. Melody Hackney said.

On top of weapons, someone recently made a school threat, prompting a heavy police presence.

“These three incidents occurring in just about three weeks of time told us we have to think differently,” Hackney said.

That’s why the superintendent brought a plan to the school board Monday to begin immediate changes right after the holidays.

“We’ll begin a process of having students at arrival of our schools walk through metal detectors that Monday after we return,” she said.

Hopewell is also looking at expanding and referring more students to alternative schools if the offense warrants it. There will be a text-a-tip and reward hotline for anyone to report crimes. The district also promises to notify parents now every time a student brings certain weapons to school.

“Guns always, knives in excess of 3.5 inches, bombs,” Hackney said.

One of the two weapons incidents wasn’t initially reported until after NBC12 started asking questions.

“We’re not in the business of keeping secrets from parents. Most of us are parents…We have put protocols in place to address that situation, it was a unique situation, and it won’t happen again,” Hackney said.

A lot of these changes won’t cost much. For example, the district already has metal detectors. It just wasn’t using them on school grounds every day. Hopewell is also looking at installing more cameras in school buildings.

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