Newport News Superintendent Provides Safety Update After Richneck School Incident
Newport News Superintendent Provides Safety Update After Richneck School Incident

Newport News Superintendent Provides Safety Update After Richneck School Incident

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After a student shot a teacher at Richneck Elementary School, Newport News Public Schools Superintendent George Parker III delivered an update on school safety on Tuesday, including improvements and more resources that will be implemented across the school division.

On January 6, Abby Zwerner, a first-grade teacher, was shot by a 6-year-old student. Zwerner was taken to the hospital in a very bad state, but he is now doing better.

The 6-year-old was taken into police custody and put in a detention centre while possible criminal charges are looked into. “When incidents such as this occur, I truly understand that our entire school community is impacted in some way,” Parker wrote.

“Therefore, while my immediate focus will remain with Ms. Zwerner, the staff, and the families of Richneck Elementary students, I want all staff to be well informed not only on our efforts to keep you safe but also how you can assist with safety efforts at your schools.”

Parker then gave an update on the following:

The superintendent has given the go-ahead to hire six more instructional behavior coaches, on top of the six that have already been hired, to help with students’ behavior.

“Behavior coaches assist teachers in the classroom to address unwanted student behaviors and develop classroom plans to improve student behavior,” Parker said.

Parker said that the school division has already put in place this year a Student Behavior Contract for the first act of physical aggression and a Behavior Improvement Contract to set up a way for a student who has been kicked out of school to get back in.

Parker said that in addition to these tools, a Behavior Monitoring Plan could be made so that the student could be watched by a behavior coach. In the wake of the shooting in Richneck, the superintendent said that other steps are being thought about or taken. School officials have already talked about how metal detectors will be used more often in NNPS buildings.

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“We have secured the necessary support from our City Council to purchase the metal detection technology that will enable every visitor to be screened as they enter every school in our division,” Parker said, adding that 90 individual door units have been ordered and will be distributed to each school. When they are trained, they will be used every day.

In the coming weeks, there will be a “school safety stand down” for the whole division. This will give teachers and school administrators a chance to work together and talk about building safety at their own schools. The information gathered from this will be used to check how the school does things and see if it needs any extra help.

Meetings will also be set up with the staff at each school so that they can talk about their specific concerns and come up with solutions and help. Parker said that other opportunities to provide behavior training for staff are in the works “to ensure that your resources toolkit for managing undesirable classroom conduct is stocked with research-based best practices from experts and veteran educators.”

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