Breaking News
More () »

How Newport News school policy says administrators should handle potential threats, weapons on campus

In a recent series of claims of how administrators were warned about a student with a gun at Richneck Elementary, 13News Now digs into what school policy mandates.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — In Wednesday's press conference, Richneck Elementary teacher Abby Zwerner's attorney, Diane Toscano, said Zwerner and other teachers told school administrators multiple times a 6-year-old boy likely had a gun on the day he shot the first-grade teacher.

Toscano said a teacher searched the child's book bag, but did not find a gun. One of the first warnings, Toscano said, was when Zwerner went to administrators to tell them the student threatened to beat up another child. 

Toscano said another teacher took the liberty to search the child's book bag and told administrators the student likely had it on his person, since that teacher did not find the weapon.

According to the handbook for Newport News Public Schools, the principal or a designee has the legal authority to conduct a search of that student and his or her belongings if a concern arises. 

The handbook also says leaders of each school are mandated to report threats made "against school personnel" to a local law enforcement agency or School Resource Officer.

In this particular situation, it is unclear if the principal designated that teacher to check the child's book bag or if administrators themselves checked the child's belongings.

13News Now reached out to Newport News Police. A spokesman responded in an email, saying, "We have determined through our investigation that a school employee was notified of a possible firearm at Richneck Elementary before the shooting occurred. The Newport News Police Department was not notified of this information prior to the incident."

13News Now interviewed Tracey DeBrew on the scene at Richneck Elementary School when she and her daughter-in-law went to pick up her grandson.

She said in light of this new information from Toscano, she is concerned about the safety of the students at her grandson's school.

"Administration has to do better," said DeBrew. "No alarm went off? Even if you couldn't check his person, you should have called law enforcement to come and check his person... because now we see what the outcome was."

DeBrew is a minister for Restoration and Faith Kingdom Builders in Newport News on Wickham Avenue. She said she is working with her pastor, Thurman Leonard, to get the community together to find solutions.

"It takes a village to raise a child, that's a true saying. It takes a village and the village starts in this building and in the home," said DeBrew. "If you don't have what's in this building in your home... then it's going to be like it is."

DeBrew said she and her church leaders are planning to speak with Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones and Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew to try to get a community event together to bring faith back into families' daily lives and spread the message to stop gun violence across the nation.

"I've been a community advocate against gun violence way before I came to this church," DeBrew said. "Something has to be done. Churches have to, and it takes more than one church... we need to start implementing programs for the children. I want to see churches open up their doors to implement tutoring for these kids, girl scouts, boy scouts... things they can get involved with and they don't have an idle mind."

DeBrew said her grandson is looking forward to seeing his friends on Monday when students return to Richneck Elementary for the first time since the shooting.

We reached out to Newport News Public Schools to learn more about how this policy through the NNPS Handbook comes into play with this situation. A spokeswoman said she could not comment on the policy, since the incident is still under an active investigation.

Before You Leave, Check This Out