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Virginia Beach education leader on what it will take to fix school safety issues

School safety is top of mind after police say a Bayside High School student brought a loaded gun to campus this week.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Today, 18-year-old Kevonta Hawkins will face a judge for reportedly bringing a loaded handgun to Bayside High School on Wednesday. 

His charges include having a stolen handgun and bringing that gun onto school property.

And this is just the latest in a series of incidents in Virginia Beach where students either made threats against school employees or brought weapons onto school grounds.

About a week ago, police said a student brought a gun to the Renaissance Academy. And about a month before that, three Ocean Lakes High students were arrested for making threats online against a school employee.

RELATED: Bayside High student charged after loaded gun found at school

And in the broader context of similar incidents at schools across Hampton Roads, and the nation grappling with mass shootings, many are asking how this problem can be addressed.

"There are lots of moving parts in it, and I think students, really everyone, needs to be heard and seen," said Kathleen Slinde, President of the Virginia Beach Education Association.

Slinde said one simple answer is not going to solve this problem. She said it takes an entire community to help students and schools, and a big part of that is mental health.

"We don't have enough school nurses. We certainly don't have enough school counselors," Slinde said. "The school brought in behavior specialists, but then there aren't enough of those. There are just not enough adults with relationships with kids."

Slinde said she wants teachers to feel safe when going into their job. She added, teachers need more training on how to address students in schools by learning the warning signs of certain behaviors.

READ MORE: What can the average person do to prevent the next school shooting?

She said change starts by holding a discussion, which she said the Virginia Beach Education Association is willing to do, but she wants to see everyone at the table. Whether you're a custodian, teacher, administrator, parent, student, or School Resource Officer, Slinde said everyone who sees things in the day-to-day progress of students should speak up and be involved.

A spokeswoman for the school division confirmed Bayside High School doesn't have metal detectors.

Slinde said better security measures are needed, as they work to address the mental health aspect.

"We need to have something to keep weapons out of our schools," she said. "We need to have students, families, and school personnel watching, listening, and reporting."

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