48 ON YOUR SIDE: Guardians seek answers after two students found with guns in Huntsville City Schools

Community wants answers after two students found with guns in Huntsville City Schools
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 12:44 AM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Many parents and guardians of students in Huntsville City Schools are searching for answers after two students were found with guns at two different schools within the system on Wednesday.

The guns were found at Mae Jemison High School and Lee High School just two weeks after a student was found with a firearm at Lee. Administrators say no students were injured and that the students with the guns will be facing expulsion.

“Whether it’s the two incidents today, McDonnell Elementary School in October, or Sonnie Hereford Elementary nearly a year ago, our message is clear and it is simple,” Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Christie Finley said. “This is unacceptable. It has to stop and parents we need your help.”

Melvina Johnson has a grandson in the Huntsville City Schools System and she is terrified every time he goes to class.

“Whether you are the custodial parent, you’re the grandparent, or however, everybody needs to come together for the better of the child,” Johnson said.

Johnson believes the work starts at home but she wants answers from the school on how they will keep children safe in the future. This is far from the first time students brought guns into classrooms. In October, several students at McDonnell Elementary School were playing with a gun in the bathroom when it was fired. Months earlier, a 4th grader at Sonnie Hereford Elementary shot himself in the foot after pulling out a gun in the middle of class.

Many Huntsville City Schools have officers patrolling the halls and teachers have alert systems at their disposal but parents and guardians like Johnson believe it may be time to bring metal detectors into schools. Finley said her team is working on increasing security at schools. “Parents we also want you to know that we are working on a plan to enhance school safety,” said Superintendent Finley. “In the coming days, we’ll be rolling out our weapons detection systems across the district.” Finley said the details of the ‘weapons detection system’ will not be announced until a later date for security purposes.

WAFF 48 is on your side and asked Huntsville Police and Huntsville City School leaders for more details on the incidents.

We asked them:

  1. Were the guns loaded?
  2. Who are the guns registered to?
  3. Will there be an increased police presence at schools following these incidents?
  4. Did the students make any threats?

While they have not provided answers to all of our questions, Superintendent Finley provided the following statement:

This evening, I am continuing to ask for your help in addressing an issue we are facing in Huntsville and school districts are facing across the country. Today, we addressed separate reports at two schools involving students bringing firearms to campus. While we are fortunate nobody was hurt, incidents like this must stop. Children are accessing weapons, bringing them into our school buildings, and jeopardizing the safety of students and staff members.

These students will be facing the highest levels of disciplinary action including expulsion. We strive for our schools to be positive places for teaching and learning, and students who create unsafe environments are not welcome in our school buildings.

Parents and families, we are continuing to ask for your partnership in promoting a safe environment. First and foremost, please ensure children are not able to access any items that may present risks to their safety and wellbeing. Check your child’s backpack to ensure they are not bringing any dangerous items to school. If your child witnesses any suspicious activity or believes someone may present a potential safety risk, please “see something, say something” by ensuring they inform a teacher or staff member immediately. You may also make a report on the Anonymous Alerts link found in the main icons of your school website.

From the district perspective, we will be rolling out a weapon detection system across our schools. This is a proactive safety measure we have been working on, and we have been testing these systems at select schools and events. Anyone entering a HCS campus may be subject to weapon detection. While we do not wish to discuss the specifics of how this process will work to avoid compromising security measures, please know this is an effort we are approaching very carefully and deliberately to promote student safety.

These weapon detection systems will complement our existing security measures. We are grateful for the support of the Huntsville Police Department and school resource officers (SROs) across the district. We also thank the HCS Security team, which is the largest in North Alabama. We appreciate our teachers, counselors, support staff, and administrators for supporting the safety of our students.

Finally, as a parent of a child in our school system, I understand the sentiments surrounding school safety both locally and nationally. This is a matter that requires urgent attention, partnership with parents, and community engagement as we all do what is best for children. Thank you for your support on this ongoing effort.