Fight at Richmond high school prompts policy change

Posted at 7:19 PM, Feb 22, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-22 19:24:20-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- Changes are in the works after a 18-year-old was able to get a gun into John Marshall High School Friday morning before school started.

When police cars flooded John Marshall High school Friday, some neighbors feared the worst.

"I was scared that a whole bunch of the kids had gotten shot over there," said one woman, who asked to remain anonymous and was visibly shaken. "It's getting bad. I mean when you can't take your kids to school and not wonder if somebody is going to shoot them or something."

Richmond Public Schools said 18-year-old Danzall Seward attends school at a Performance Learning Center, but was waiting for his bus inside John Marshall because of the weather.

Investigators said Seward and a 16-year-old John Marshall student got into a fight and that during that fight, a handgun fell out of Seward's coat pocket. That's when cops said Seward grabbed the gun and took off.

According to police, the suspect ran in this direction past a YMCA into a nearby neighborhood, where he was arrested him a short time later.

Richmond police and the school's security officers recovered the handgun from a nearby dumpster.

School leaders are concerned Seward managed to get a handgun into the building - despite the metal detectors.

"I'm concerned anytime a weapon is in our schools because that clearly places are students in danger and our teachers at risk. And so, we've got to do whatever it is to make sure these things don't happen,” said Jeffrey Bourne, Richmond School Board Chair.

When asked if the metal detectors were operational at the time, Bourne said that the "metal detectors do operate and they do function properly.”

However, hours after the John Marshall incident, Richmond Public Schools announced a plan to change safety and security procedures and consider spending more money for security upgrades.

School Board Chair Jeffrey Bourne says they’ll be discussing those changes and who can enter a building during inclement weather days.

"We'll be looking at it as a school board about how and what type of security measures we can place to make sure that our kids feel safe,” said Bourne.

And that's important to parents like Kevin Spencer who constantly worries about his son's safety in school.

"These kids are so impressionable now and a whole lot of school shootings are happening. So, I think they need to beef up security especially around this area because John Marshall has a history,” said Spencer.

Seward is facing two felonies for possessing a stolen weapon and bringing a weapon on campus. A 16-year-old student is facing two misdemeanors for Simple Assault and Disorderly conduct.

In addition, John Marshall will hold a meeting for parents on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss Friday’s incident, the importance of parental engagement, as well as obtain suggestions and feedback on safety and security procedures going forward.