Many in the Virginia shipbuilding city where a 6-year-old shot a first-grade teacher want metal detectors in all schools. Experts believe school shooting prevention is difficult.
The National Association of School Resource Officers, which trains school police, executive director Mo Canady called it a game changer.
“How do we begin to approach the issue of defending children and workers from an armed 6-year-old?” he said of the Newport News attack Friday. American educators have worked to make classrooms safer than jails. School metal detectors are rare, but Friday’s shooting raises worries.
Buffalo State University school psychology professor Amanda Nickerson says metal detectors and visible bags intimidate and criminalise youngsters.
“Many of the remedies being presented do not have any scientific evidence, and they may perhaps damage a positive school climate,” she said—one where kids and staff feel secure voicing concerns about potential threats, which has been shown to reduce shootings.
Nickerson said a better technique promotes “positive social, emotional, behavioural and academic success”. UCLA social welfare and education professor Ron Avi Astor said gun owners should be accountable.
Newport News police don’t know how the 6-year-old brought his mother’s lawful gun to school. A Virginia misdemeanour for supplying a child under 14 a loaded pistol carries a one-year jail sentence and $2,500 fine. Mother is uncharged. Astor advocated firearm licencing and public health approaches to school gun violence.
“Let’s all agree that gun education is very vital, particularly around gun safety, accidents, and youngsters getting access to guns,” Astor stated. Health. Let’s teach US schoolchildren, parents, and teachers about hazardous items.”
Polls suggest most Americans support gun safety education. “That’s a terrific place to start saving lives and decreasing injury or death,” Astor added.
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Abigail Zwerner’s Richneck Elementary first-graders were shot Friday. The 6-year-old shot Zwerner unprovoked. The bullet pierced Zwerner’s hand and chest. The 25-year-old left class before hospitalisation. Authorities said she stabilised Monday.
Chief Steve Drew called the shooting “intentional.” Emergency custody will judge the child.
Newport News Public Schools superintendent said the shooting “will lead us to review how we handle our youngest children.”At a Monday press conference, Superintendent George Parker III said high schools and middle schools use metal detectors and random searches but not primary schools. Parker said, “I hate being here thinking this.”
Newport News Education Association president James Graves said the teachers union would lobby the school board for metal detectors in all schools. “If metal detectors in every school keep our kids safe, so be it,” he told AP.
The union will advise students to wear transparent backpacks. Eric Billet, whose three children attend Newport News public schools, supports metal detectors, bag searches, and security officers at every school. Student counsellors and behaviourists are needed.
Billet’s fourth-grader daughter experienced Richneck nightmares after the tragedy. “Culture change is harder,” he remarked.
“I know some teachers have had problems controlling classrooms since COVID,” Billet said. School discipline or parenting? I don’t blame instructors.” Metal detectors are Rick Fogle’s hobby. If guns are suspected, schools should inspect backpacks, pockets, and desks more.
Fogle said they must fight social pressure to respect rights and consider injuries. David Riedman, founder of a database that records U.S. school shootings since 1970, said he only knows of three 6-year-old and one younger shootings.
Riedman stated schools shoot or seize weapons daily. 302 school shootings occurred last year. 250 educators been shot since 1970. He suggested schools use metal detectors more.
Riedman said schools struggle to locate bus drivers and teachers. TSA-style statewide school security with 100% firearm detection would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Unattainable.” NCES says elementary schools rarely utilise metal detectors. 2% of public elementary schools randomly metal-detected kids in 2019–2020. 14.8%, 10%.
The centre reported that 2% of elementary, 9% of middle, and 7% of high schools required clear bags. Elementary schools had security weekly, middle schools 81.5%, and high schools 84.4%. Canady said school metal detectors need training and maintenance and can mislead students. Relationship-based policing may reduce classroom violence. Canady said every child needs a trusted adult.
VAESP executive director Krista Arnold concurred. 18-year Virginia Beach primary school administrator retired in 2021. “I had a couple knives come to school over my 18 years, and (the students) usually sing like canaries and notify somebody,” Arnold said. The front office received that quickly. Arnold opposes school enforcement. She likes teaching empathy.
“My experience is when you construct that community and you openly educate social, emotional skills—and you talk about how it makes the other person feel if you’ve hurt them… you build that good citizenship and you minimise the amount of punishment and antagonism in the school,” she said.